Home > food, Italian, pasta > Penne with Vodka Sauce (& Roasted Beets)

Penne with Vodka Sauce (& Roasted Beets)

Penne w/Vodka Sauce

Long ago, Joel declared to me his love for vodka sauce. However, I never made it for him because I generally shy from creamy sauces, the vodka sauces I’d had from a jar never seemed particularly remarkable and I never understood the point of adding vodka anyway. However, I thought I’d surprise him, so I picked up some pancetta and vodka on my afternoon run (stopping at a liquor store mid-run is amusing. running home with vodka in hand is even moreso) and whipped up the sauce before he got home.

Since I am curious, maybe you are too. I learned that any type of alcohol has some sort of chemical reaction with tomatoes that brings out their sweetness (hence pouring wine into sauces). Vodka is often used by commercial manufacturers because it is cheap and flavorless. I think some vodka concern also tried to popularize its use in tomato sauce several decades ago, and this was the result.

Roasted Beets

I served the pasta with a side of roasted beets (drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil packet and bake at 375F until ready), freshly pulled from my friend’s garden. Our friend, who was over for dinner, doesn’t eat cheese so I resisted sprinkling the roasted beets with balsamic and feta (next time!).

Yes, the vodka sauce was amazingly simple yet good. Yes, he really liked it. However, as I get older, dairy is getting increasingly difficult to digest so this probably won’t make the regular rotation (unfortunately).

Vodka Sauce w/Pancetta (adapted from AllRecipes.com)


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup vodka (pepper if you can find it on your run)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3-4 slices chopped pancetta
  • shaved parmesan to taste
  1. Saute onion in butter until slightly brown and soft.
  2. Pour in vodka and let cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix in crushed tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Pour in heavy cream and cook for another 30 minutes. 
  5. Add pancetta, salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with 1 lb cooked pasta, sprinkle with parmesan cheese!

Penne w/Vodka Sauce

Penne w/Vodka Sauce

Categories: food, Italian, pasta Tags: , ,
  1. July 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    This looks delicious! I’ll have to try it soon. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Tom
    July 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I find that if you don’t burn off the vodka entirely, it gives the sauce a nice taste of alcohol that balances out the cream very nicely.

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