Penne alla Vodka (Recipe)

Penne Ala Vodka


Penne alla Vodka is one of my Aunt Toni's favorite pastas so I though that I would honor her with this recipe and a bit of history that I learned about this popular pasta dish!

According to Pasquale Bruno, Jr., From Chicago, author of "The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook," Penne alla Vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy.

Others credit James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University, as the inventor of Penne a la Vodka.

Paula Franzese, a law professor, claims that her father Luigi Franzese, born in Naples, Italy in 1931, devised the first incarnation of Penne alla Vodka, which he called Penne alla Russia because of the addition of the vodka to his tomato and cream sauce.

He first prepared the dish table side for patrons at New York City's Orsini's restaurant in the early 1970s.

 Orsini's, owned by Armando and Elio Orsini, was one of the most acclaimed restaurants of its time, hosting regulars that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sammy Davis, Jr, Mick Jagger and scores of literary, entertainment and business icons.

Word of Penne alla Russia quickly spread, and soon it began appearing on other menus throughout the New York region.

The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook says that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy. So the debate is on on who created it!

I looked at the recipe and it is basically a rosa sauce with vodka.  Here is my version.

Penne alla Vodka (Recipe) print version

Serves 4-6 portions


1 peeled medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Sky Vodka
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 pounds very ripe, fresh tomatoes; OR 2 pounds canned San Marzano tomatoes, drained, all passed through a food mill with the smallest disk, set aside
1/4 Tablespoon (or to taste) hot red pepper flakes
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley (as garnish)
1 tablespoon Fresh Julienne Basil 
1 pound dried Penne Rigate, (preferably imported Italian)


In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, add the olive oil.

Add the onion and garlic to saucepan and saute for 5 minutes, till it is soft and begins to brown.

Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste.

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring with a non metallic spoon.

Add your heavy cream and just before tossing with your pasta add the vodka

Boil your Penne Rigate  in plenty of salted boiling water, cook until al dente, for 9 to 12 minutes this depends on the brand and the type of pasta, see pasta types.

Now here is the important part

Transfer the sauce to a separate large skillet set on low heat.

Drain the pasta, do not rinse it, and add it to the skillet.

Raise the temperature and add the sauce to the pasta,(here is where you throw in your vodka) enough to liberally coat the pasta but not drown it. saute for 30 seconds. Remove the Penne alla Vodka from the heat,  transfer to a warmed serving platter or individual pasta plates. Top with fresh chopped Italian Parsley and Fresh Basil, I also like to drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top as well and lots of grated cheese.

[1]Source Wikipedia

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