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Italian Recipes: Penne a la Vodka

Updated on August 12, 2008

A simple crowd pleasing dish

One of my favorite hub pasttimes has got to be finding recipes. I enjoy cooking almost as much as hooking up a hi-def display.

Brought to you by a 5 Star Chef

I once new a guy that worked with a friend of mine who was a former chef at a 5 star restaurant in New York. I'm not sure if I should say his name or the establishment he worked at, but I will say that he is the one who taught me this dish.


  • 6-8 whole cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans of San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes (strained, or crushed)
  • 6 ounces of good vodka
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4-6 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 pound of Penne Rigate (the ones with the ridges)
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of good Parmesan Cheese grated
  • Romano cheese or Locatelli Cheese grated as atopping to taste
  • 3 teaspoons of white pepper
  • Some fresh Parsley for garnish and flavor

The Secret Ingredient

According to the Chef who taught me this, the secret ingredient is the white pepper. You simply cannot skip this ingredient. I tried it and he was right. Truth be told I add more white pepper to mine then what is listed in the ingredients but you can put as much or as little as you like.

This pepper is actually a little hot. However, it is not hot in the conventional sense. It actually bites you in the lower jaw as opposed to the lips and tongue. This adds a little twist to the sauce that people can not explain when they are eating.

The Preparation

Give the garlic a good whack with the flat side of a knife blade to crack the cloves open. In a medium sized saucepan (sorry I don't know the sizes) add the olive oil and the garlic. It is very important to do this under low heat and to slowly brown the garlic. It is also important not to over brown the garlic. As soon as the garlic is a light brown you are finished. You are flavoring the oil here.

When the garlic is golden add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Again you do not want to brown the onion you are just getting it good and soft. When the onion is transparent remove and discard the garlic.

Add the 2 cans of tomato, salt to taste. Add the white pepper and simmer over medium heat until the sauce has reduced a bit. This will generally take about 30 minutes.

Add the vodka and cook 10 minutes more. Meanwhile boil the water for the pasta (don't forget to drizzle some olive oil in the water and to salt the water when it begins to boil)

The Assembly

Cook the pasta for 6-8 minutes. Make sure the penne is still a little firm when you strain it.

Slowly stir the heavy cream into your tomato sauce. You do not have to use the whole pint of cream. You are looking for a pink colored sauce. Use the picture up top as a guide. That dish is perfectly prepared. Keep stirring and adding until you have it right. Remove it from the fire and taste. (always taste) If it needs vodka salt or white pepper add it now. Otherwise, stir in your Parmesan Cheese and parsley, toss with you pasta and serve hot with grated Romano cheese and chopped fresh Parsely sprinkled on top. Enjoy.


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