Penne Alla Vodka

I believe that if there were only one recipe you could ever learn, it should be homemade pasta sauce. I was spoiled growing up because my grandmother was an Italian immigrant who loved to cook, but honestly I believe there is nothing better than fresh sauce. I love all kinds of food and I am not a picky eater by any means, but if there is one thing I strongly dislike, it is canned sauce. This may be a sweeping generalization, but I think it’ s safe to say that most college students resort to using Prego or Ragu. I don’ t blame you–canned sauce is easy to cook, but making the sauce for penne alla vodka isn’ t all that difficult either. In fact, it is actually easier than you may think. It does take a little more effort and about 30 minutes longer to cook, but it will be worth it in the end! Plus, you must have some leftover vodka lying around from last weekend, why not put it to good use (one that won’t regret). Trust me when I say you will feel very accomplished when you get back to school in the fall and can brag to your friends that you, a cooking novice, know how to make a delicious homemade pasta sauce.

Caroline will be a junior this fall at Colgate University in central New York. When she’s in the kitchen, she spends most of the time attempting to master her grandmother and mother’s delectable Italian recipes. Catch more of her recipes at her blog,


Penne alla Vodka
Makes enough sauce for 1 lb of penne (serves 5-6 people)


2 (35 ounce) cans of whole peeled tomatoes (only use 1.5 of them)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh, chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vodka
1 lb penne
1 3/4 cup of cream (your choice of half and half, light cream, or heavy)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (buy a wedge and grate yourself.. expensive but worth it. Kraft’ s “ Parmesan” isn’ t quite the same)

Using your hands, open up the tomatoes from your can and a half. Pull the tomatoes apart into smaller chunks, removing the seeds, and place them into a bowl.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, and cook the garlic until tender (about 1-2 minutes). Add tomatoes and stir. Add basil, salt, and pepper. Cook until sauce comes to a slight boil, then simmer for 15 minutes (using very low heat–this can be tricky on gas stoves).

Stir in vodka and cook for 15 more minutes. While the sauce is still cooking, place
a large pot of water on the stove to heat. When the water comes to a boil, add salt. Once the pot of water starts boiling again, add the penne. Cook for about 10 minutes
and then drain.

When the 15 minutes are up on the sauce, stir the cream into the skillet and simmer for about 15 more minutes. Toss the penne with the sauce and serve. Add cheese if desired.

Originally posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

2 Responses to “Penne Alla Vodka”

  1. Small Kitchen College: Dining Hall DIY: Bruschetta | eduJunction

    September 27th, 2011

    [...] seems that the most popular cultural cuisine — both inside the dining hall and out — is Italian. As I am studying abroad in Florence this semester, I couldn’t wait to get here and start [...]

  2. Small Kitchen College: Dining Hall DIY: Bruschetta | The Morning Dump

    September 27th, 2011

    [...] but it seems that the most popular cultural cuisine — both inside the dining hall and out — is Italian. As I am studying abroad in Florence this semester, I couldn't wait to get here and start eating [...]

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