Penne with Vodka and Spicy Tomato-Cream Sauce

This is my perennial favorite. I come back to this all the time. It is quick and easy and hearty enough to stand alone, but also good paired with a nice salad. It is from my absolute favorite cookbook, Patricia Wells' Trattoria. The spice is not very strong, but you can cut down the red pepper if you are sensitive to it.

Yields 6-8 servings

1/4 cup olive oil
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
sea salt
One 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes or one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree (I always use the latter)
1 pound dried tubular pasta, such as penne
2 tbsp. vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, lightly chopped

In a large skillet combine oil, garlic, pepper and salt, stirring to coat with oil.
Cook over moderate heat just until garlic turns fragrant and golden, but not brown.
(if using whole tomatoes, blend or crush before adding to skillet) Add tomato puree to skillet.
Stir and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Bring pasta to boil in separate pot.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss. Add vodka and toss again, then and add cream and toss. Cover, reduxe heat to low and let rest for 1-2 min.
Add the parsley and mix in.
Transfer to warm, shallow dishes and serve immediately. Traditionally cheese is not served over this dish.

Wine pairing: good quality red that stands up to the spice: Chianti Classico or California Zinfandel


  1. YUM! I LOVE vodka sauce! I have a very similar recipe and we like to add pancetta to it (bacon works too...but pancetta tastes SO much better!). Cook the pancetta first in little olive oil, then remove the meat from the pan and continue with the garlic, red pepper flakes, etc. Reintroduce the meat after you add the tomatoes.

  2. Awesome! I will definitely try that.