This easy penne alla vodka with prosciutto is made with al dente penne pasta that is tossed in a delicious tomato, vodka, and cream sauce. Top this easy and classic Italian pasta dish with some parmesan cheese for a delicious dinner!
Boston’s Little Italy
Growing up in Massachusetts as an Italian American, I was straight up spoiled. I had all the best eateries at my fingertips and enjoyed some of the best restaurants in America. Our family owns a beautiful trattoria that cranks out some of the best meatballs you’ve ever had.
It may feel like serving up a restaurant quality Italian dish is far fetched, but I’m here today to give you all the best tricks to make this insanely delicious vodka sauce.
Penne alla vodka is such a simple dish to make! The sauce is reduced, then rehydrated with the heavy cream. The result is a silky, creamy, delicious sauce that is perfectly seasoned- thanks to pan-seared prosciutto!
Penne alla vodka ingredients
- Penne pasta- Buy the best quality pasta you can afford. Look for pastas that are imported from Italy. Pastas from Italy are made with different kinds of wheat, dried differently, and will have that true texture of al dente. Since this is a key ingredient, go ahead and splurge!
- San marzano tomatoes- This recipe uses canned tomatoes as the sauce base. If you cannot find canned san marzano tomatoes, any can of whole tomatoes will work.
- Extra virgin olive oil- Splash a little EVOO in your pan to add a little extra flavor.
- Garlic- Fresh garlic pulls all the flavors together to create a delicious Italian melody!
- Basil- Fresh basil is placed in the sauce to simmer, then removed later after it has done it’s job of flavoring the dish. Make sure to place the basil in whole, and do not cut it.
- Proscuitto- Notice how the recipe does not include salt? That’s because pan frying the proscuitto helps season and salt the dish!
- Vodka- Buy the best quality vodka you can afford. Vodka is reduced in this recipe to help blend the flavor, but a higher quality will yield a better over all taste.
- Red pepper flakes- A pinch of red pepper flakes enhances the tomato flavor without it being spicy.
- Butter- Penne all vodka is a special dish because of the way the sauce glistens on the pasta. Romantic, right? That’s because cold butter is added in the sauce last, which creates a glisten and extra creamy flavor.
- Parmesan cheese- Last, but certainly not least, you will want to top this incredible dish with parmesan cheese. It adds a little hint of salt and really brings all the flavors and textures together.
- Switch up the pasta. Just because this classic dish is named “penne alla vodka” does not mean you have to stick with penne pasta! Grab whatever pasta you like! Spaghetti or rigatoni would be a great alternative.
- Make sure you reduce the sauce. Reducing the vodka and tomato sauce is essential. This gives the sauce some time to bring together the flavors and cook off the alcohol. If you do not reduce the sauce, you will be left with a bitter alcohol taste in the sauce. The sauce will look really thick, when you glide a spatula across the pan, the sauce will very slowly take shape again. Then, you will add the heavy cream to rehydrate the sauce to get that delicious creamy texture.
- Make this personal. Italians are known for having a very passionate connection with food. Make this dish speak to your soul! Add some Italian sausage, chicken, shrimp, scallops, whatever protein! Dress this dish up with your own creativity and taste!
- Use fresh ingredients. Buy fresh basil (or grow it!) and use fresh garlic. Using fresh ingredients creates a more flavorful dish that is hard to replicate with dried herbs.
- Use a blender. Toss the canned whole tomatoes into a blender and blend until they are smooth. This will create an ultra-silky pasta sauce that is undeniably delicious!
How to make penne alla vodka
- Sauté the prosciutto, garlic, and basil. Splash a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cut the prosciutto into small pieces and finely chop the garlic. Add the basil to the pan and let it wilt. Once the prosciutto is browned, move onto the next step.
- Add the vodka and tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes in a blender and blend until they are smooth. Remove the pan from the stove and add a few “glugs” of vodka to the pan. Do not add the vodka over an open flame. Return the pan after the vodka has been added, then add the blended tomatoes and red pepper flakes.
- Allow the sauce to reduce. The sauce will reduce over medium heat within 30-45 minutes. Make sure to stir the sauce every so often so it does not burn on the bottom.
- Rehydrate the sauce. Once the sauce is reduced by half and is very thick, add the heavy cream to rehydrate the sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer and remove the basil.
- Cook the pasta. Heat a large pot of water to a roaring boil. For a real Italian feel, salt the water like seawater. Add the pasta and cook to al dense, according to package instructions.
- Combine the pasta and sauce. Once the pasta is don’t cooking, combine the pasta and the sauce in one dish. Toss the pasta well so the sauce works into all the small crevices.
- Top with the fixings. Add shaved or grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and more red pepper flakes to your pasta. Mangia!
Penne alla vodka is a creamy tomato sauce with a splash of vodka in it, so yes, it does contain alcohol. However, the alcohol is added to this recipe for flavor enhancement and is cooked down and reduced so the alcohol is evaporated and all that remains is flavor!
How to make vegan penne alla vodka
This recipe uses prosciutto, which is an Italian cured meat. If you want to make this dish vegan, simply omit the prosciutto and the cheese. Start by sautéing the garlic and basil in the olive oil. Next, add the vodka and tomatoes and cook until it is reduced. Make sure to add a dash of salt since you won’t be using the salty prosciutto. You can top your pasta with a vegan cheese or just forgo it and add fresh herbs instead. Delicious Italian food made vegan!
What to serve with penne alla vodka
- Oven roasted vegetables is easy, fast, and delicious! Sweet potato and green beans are tossed in a full-bodied olive oil with raw garlic and fresh thyme, then roasted to perfection! These roasted vegetables are healthy and delicious.
- Italian stuffed whole pompano fish is fantastic! White wine, parmesan cheese, fresh lemon, and Italian seasoning make the best stuffing for this Florida pompano fish! In under 20 minutes, you’ll have the most tender, flaky and delicious fish dinner!
- Antipasto Quinoa Salad is packed with all the best flavors of Italy! Salami, pepperoncini, and artichokes build the quinoa bowl before being topped with a white wine vinaigrette.
- White Wine Vinaigrette is made quickly by blending robust olive oil, white wine, vinegar, and parmesan cheese. This easy salad dressing is full of zesty Italian flavor!
- Oven roasted asparagus is such an easy side dish that is healthy, delicious, and fast cooking.
Penne Alla Vodka with Prosciutto
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5 slices of proscuitto
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1 28 oz can of whole san marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2-3 tbsp cold butter
- parmesan cheese
- Sauté the prosciutto, garlic and basil. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the proscuitto, garlic ,and basil and sauté until the proscuitto is browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vodka and tomaotes. Blend the whole tomatoes in a blender until it has a smooth consistency. Remove the pan from the stove top and add the vodka. Do not add the vodka to the pan over an open flame. Return the pan to the stove top and add the blended tomatoes. Toss in the red pepper flakes and stir to combine.
- Allow the sauce to reduce. Keep the sauce over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. The sauce will become very thick.
- Rehydrate the sauce. Add the heavy cream to the sauce to rehydrate the sauce. Stir to encorporate, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook the pasta to al dente in a pot of salted boiling water, according to package instructions.
- Toss the pasta sauce and pasta together. In a large bowl, toss the pasta and sauce together. Add the butter and continue to toss until the butter is melted. Make sure to get the sauce to cover all the pasta. Top with parmesan cheese, parsely, and more red pepper flakes. Mangia!
Nutrition values are estimates, for exact values consult a nutritionist.
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