Our favorite pasta

Over the years, I have given this recipe to many friends and family members. So simple and quick to prepare, this recipe is perfect for dinner guests, even my mom who doesn't care much for tomato cream sauces.

Penne alla Vodka

16oz. pkg penne pasta
olive oil for pan

4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/8 lb. prosciutto, pancetta or bacon, chopped into thin strips (we prefer pancetta)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
28oz. can diced tomatoes or whole tomates, crushed with a potato masher
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan (if you use the stuff in the can, your sauce will be clumpy), plus more for individual servings
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (don't be tempted to use dried for this recipe...you'll really be missing out!)
salt & pepper to taste

Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente, drain. While you are waiting for the water to boil for the pasta, drizzle about 1 Tbp. olive oil in a large skillet. Heat oil over medium heat. Saute pancetta (or prosciutto or bacon) and crushed red pepper for 1-2 minute(s). Add minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so. Stir in tomatoes with juices and cook for 3-5 minutes. Stir in vodka and cream. Simmer 15 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan (if you stir in too much, the sauce gets clumpy and weird) and chopped basil. Toss pasta until evenly coated. Pass remaining parmesan to individual servings.
Note: Sometimes I sauté diced onion in the olive oil before adding the pancetta and pepper. M hasn't approved of this addition of the "yuckies" but I'll keep trying every other time I make this dish. Even with the crushed red pepper, this has been one of her favorite dishes since she was a year old.
Update: a question was asked in the comments as to whether or not whole wheat pasta is a tasty substitute. I only use whole grain pasta whenever I cook pasta dishes -- Barilla Plus or Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat. I love the nutty flavor that whole wheat adds to each dish. If you're not a fan of whole wheat flavor, you'll probably be happiest with Barilla Plus.
Also, when reheating this dish, you'll have great results if you reheat in a skillet and add a bit of milk if the pasta seems to be a little dry. Reheating in a skillet as opposed to the microwave doesn't leave a funny taste and doesn't cause the sauce to separate and get completely nasty.
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  1. You gave me this recipe a few years ago and we LOVE it!!! It is my favorite pasta dish to make when company comes. :o)

  2. Valerie Vedder02 May, 2009 22:46

    Just had it again tonight. Thanks for reminding me! It is George's all time favorite pasta.

  3. Alicia Johnson07 May, 2009 10:44

    I love love love this pasta! Super yummy. Just wondering, have you tried it with whole wheat penne, and if so did it turn out as tasty?

  4. Always use the HH Penne for a lot of our pasta dishes. It seems to be the only "Healthy" pasta Matt and Zoe actually love. Made your yummy dish again this weekend, fantastic. TY!