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The World’s Greatest Penne ala Vodka

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This, dear friends, is your lucky day. I am about to share a recipe for the best Vodka Sauce you’ve ever tasted. Seriously…this stuff is a. maze. ing. This recipe comes from a lovely friend, Erin, who acquired it from her uncle, whose friend, Charlie, came up with it. Follow all that? The first time I had the pleasure of this sauce was during college, when Erin whipped it up to the great delight of everyone in our sorority house. We were all hooked. Our biggest problem after that, was figuring out who was old enough to buy the vodka, so we could make it again.

This is a rich sauce; not exactly what you would call diet-friendly. But, all things in moderation. It’s worth it! Just hold your breath while you pour in the quart of cream and drop in the stick of butter. It’s gonna be a long run for me tonight!

Mise En Place

A little note about Mise En Place – The French phrase, Mise en Place, pronounced MEEZ-on-plahs, roughly translates to “everything in its place”. In the culinary field, this refers to the practice of gathering, preparing, and organizing ingredients prior to beginning the cooking process. I’ve mentioned this all before, but I say it again because I truly believe that mise en place is the #1 thing you can do to make cooking a successful, enjoyable experience. Now, my mise en place isn’t always nicely arranged on a tray.  That just makes a pretty picture.  But, I do prepare my mise en place almost every time I cook. Sometimes I do it just prior to cooking.  Other times, I gather, measure, and prepare things whenever I have a moment over the course of the day. This way, when dinner time rolls around, I’m ready to cook! The practice of preparing your mise en place will save you many headaches and a lot of frustration. It will save you from burning the soup, while you’re searching for a spoon or from overcooking the green beans while you’re chopping the garlic. You’ll be just like those chefs on TV, skillfully whipping up delicious meals with ease.

But, enough about mise en place. Let’s get cooking!

Penne ala Vodka

World’s Greatest Vodka Sauce


  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 shots vodka
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 can whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 1 qt heavy cream (or you can use a combination of light and heavy cream)
  • 1 small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese


  • Chop onion and garlic and cook in olive oil until soft.
  • Add prosciutto and cook for a few minutes.
  • Form mixture into a circle with a hole in the middle, pour vodka in the center of the circle and allow to cook off (about 5 minutes). **Pour vodka into a shot glass or other wide-rimmed container before pouring into the pot.  Never pour alcohol directly from a bottle into a hot pan. It is flammable and there is a chance that flames could find there way into the bottle and cause it to explode.
  • Rinse plum tomatoes under water and rinse out all the seeds. (Seeds make the sauce bitter.)
  • Cut into quarters or eighths and add tomato pieces to mixture.
  • Add cream and tomato paste, stir until combined and hot.
  • Chop approximately 5 basil leaves and add to the sauce. (Save additional basil leaves for garnish.)
  • Add cheese and butter and simmer over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. About 1-2 tsp of each should be good.

Serve over penne pasta. This dish pairs nicely with steamed asparagus or peas.

The sauce will keep for a few days in the refrigerator if you don’t put it on the pasta. (Pasta with the sauce already on it does not reheat well.)

Italian Bread with Roasted Garlic Butter

Remember that garlic we roasted last week?  (Click here for a reminder.) Combine 1 head of roasted garlic with 1 stick of softened butter. Cut a loaf of Italian bread in half lengthwise. Spread the roasted garlic butter on both halves. Put the halves back together.  Wrap the loaf in foil.  Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with the Penne ala Vodka.

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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