Penne with Vodka Sauce

So I guess this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. I mentioned earlier that I’m trying to use up everything in my pantry before we move in a few weeks, and one of the things that happens to be in my pantry is a huge bottle of vodka. I’m pretty sure that five years ago, my solution to an excess vodka problem would have been shots! But today, as an old married lady with a grown-up job, I decided to finally make this pasta with vodka sauce recipe I clipped a few months ago. This was really good, but I still have 3/4 of a giant bottle of vodka. Maybe shots are in my future…

One thing I’ve never been fully clear on is whether alcohol actually cooks off in a dish like this, or if you still consume some of it. Basically, could I serve this to children or pregnant women? After I finished, I tried very hard to tell whether I was at all inebriated, and the results were inconclusive.

PENNE WITH VODKA SAUCE (slightly adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook)

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup milk
1 pound penne pasta
2 tbsp minced fresh basil leaves
Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Puree half the tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add the reserved juice to equal 2 cups.
  2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from the heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8-10 minutes; stir frequently and lower the heat to medium if the simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in milk and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tbsp salt and pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring often, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water then drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes. Adjust consistency of sauce with the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir in basil and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

This was great – like a spicy, chunky marinara sauce. Make sure to taste it before you serve; mine definitely needed more salt. The original recipe called for heavy cream instead of milk, but I wanted to lighten it up (and I had some milk that was about to go bad) – I’m sure it would be even better with heavy cream, instead.


4 thoughts on “Penne with Vodka Sauce

  1. FYI – Years of Food Network abuse has taught me that you can never fully cook out the alcohol in anything. After 2 hours in a sample dish you will remove most of it but there will still be 10% remaining.

    I’d say – children yes (a little cough syrup never hurt them) but for preggos maaaaybe ask one of them preggo specialists.

    • Ah, should’ve known you would be the one to know this. My only frame of reference was that 30 Rock episode where Liz Lemon got Jason Sudeikis drunk on whiskey-glazed salmon. Thanks!

  2. I feel your pain about moving! I moved last week so had days of using ingredients up, and am now at the stage where my pantry isn’t well stocked and my cook books are still packed up! I made halloumi for my blog ( so that I’d have time to put up shelving! Good luck with the move!

    • Moving is the worst! And I know that when we are finally in the new place, I probably won’t feel like cooking until everything is unpacked (which will probably take weeks!). Good luck with the unpacking!

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