Penne alla Vodka
Penne alla vodka was my go to order at Italian restaurants growing up in NJ. It was always a meal I ate out and so it felt like a treat. Once I moved to California, I loved making this treat for friends and family. If you want to time this pasta perfectly for guests, make the sauce stopping right before adding the pasta and pasta water. Pick up the recipe from there about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner. The sauce will hold for up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
Your Time: 30 minutes
1 pound penne rigate
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1 small or 1/2 large red onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup tomato paste (about 6 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chile paste or crushed red pepper
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (about 1 sprig, leaves removed)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more to garnish
3 tablespoons finely chopped basil (3 large leaves)
Kosher salt, to taste
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne, stirring to avoid it from sticking and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta liquid before draining the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, in a large sauté pan over medium heat add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in the red onion, cook 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in the garlic and a pinch of kosher salt and cook another minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Next, add in the tomato and chile paste. Stir the pastes into the oil until evenly combined and then continue to cook about 2 minutes or until the tomato paste turns a deeper red. Deglaze the pan with the vodka. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to cook until the vodka is evaporated. Add the heavy cream and chopped oregano and stir together, cook 2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and season with more salt as needed. Stir in the parmesan and the drained pasta. Stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Next, start ladling the pasta water into the pasta, ¼ cup at a time, until the sauce is creamy. Stir in the basil and serve immediately with more parmesan to garnish.