When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to eat at fancier Italian restaurants. My father, like myself, enjoys really good food. I remember looking at a menu at one of those Italian restaurants and choosing to try Penne Alla Vodka because I had never heard of it or tried it before.
I was blown away with this dish at first taste. The creamy sauce, the perfectly cooked pasta and crispy and smoky pancetta. I remember thinking this is just like a regular bowl of pasta but with a few tweaks to bring it up a few notches.
This is one of the first recipes I printed and cooked at home over 20 years ago. I was a food blogger even before I knew it because I used the recipe as a guide but then I ditched the recipe and came up with my own that I felt was better. Just like my Mushroom Risotto Recipe.
Get My Mushroom Risotto Recipe—> My Roots: Mushroom Risotto
Traditionally, Penne alla Vodka is made with Pancetta which is Italian bacon. The first few times I made it, I used pancetta. After making it over and over, using the same recipe, I noticed that the taste was never consistent. This is because pancetta is not consistent. Even the flavour is all over the place – some have spice, some are lean, some are very smoky in flavour.
I tried using bacon instead and I really liked how the extra fat brought the sauce together. I use high quality bacon that is free of preservatives and not too salty. Now, I know it’s going to come out the same way every time. The flavour is awesome – still smoky like pancetta and consistently delicious.
Penne Alla Vodka is pretty indulgent so if you’re serving it with another dish at a dinner party, be sure to serve a ladle per guest. Trust me, that’s all they will need.
This is my most loved (off the internet) and oldest recipe – I’m not sure why it took me so long to share it but I’m so excited to finally do that! Enjoy!
- Penne Alla Vodka
- 10 slices (375g) Good Quality Bacon, chopped
- 2 teaspoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 oz vodka
- 4 cups (1 Litre) Tomato sauce
- ½ cup 35% whipping cream (put on the counter an hour before you cook)
- 450g Penne Rigate
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
- Garnish: Freshly torn basil leaves
- Put a large pot of salted water on high heat to boil.
- Heat a large deep skillet to medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chopped bacon and fry it until it is lightly golden and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and let drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Leave the liquid bacon fat in the skillet.
- Add the onions and garlic to the same skillet. Cook the onions until they are softened, about 6 minutes. Add vodka to the skillet to deglaze. Use a wooden spoon to stir the vodka and scrape any onions and garlic that have stuck to the skillet. Let everything simmer for 1 minute.
- If your water is boiling, add your Penne Rigate to the pot with the boiling water and cook to ‘al dente’. I like to use Penne Rigate because the grooves help keep the sauce on the pasta.
- Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring to a boil. Simmer it for 10 minutes. Slowly add the heavy whipping cream in a steady stream to the tomato sauce while gently stirring the sauce to combine the cream and tomato sauce together. The sauce should start to look pink and very creamy. Continue to stir until the sauce has come together, about 2 minutes. Add the Parmesan Cheese and stir. Add the bacon and fold it in with the sauce.
- Drain the pasta and transfer it to the skillet with the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.
- Serve immediately with some more freshly grated Parmesan cheese, freshly chopped basil and fresh and crusty Italian bread.