Sunday Pasta®: Penne alla Vodka

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Sunday Pasta Penne alla Vodka 640

Shaken, not stirred. No, make that stirred (with a wooden spoon), not shaken. Either way, it’s a very 1970’s sentiment, for a very 70’s dish.  And although vodka sauce certainly does now exist in Italy (barely), I suspect that it was invented in New York, by some chef who had just spent the night partying with Andy Warhol and Calvin Klein at Studio 54.  By the next afternoon’s prep time, he needed his vodka so badly that he smuggled a bottle into the kitchen. When confronted by the restaurant owner, all he could say was, “But it’s for, it’s for, uh, uh, it’s for my new creation, penne alla vodka.” And the rest is a blurry history.

So let’s thank Calvin, Andy, Donna Summer and the Village People for keeping that chef out all night. And, thankfully for all of us, penne alla vodka is cheaper and more legal than what could have been the alternative, “penne alla coke,” which may sound more exciting, but probably doesn’t taste so good.

So this is my theory. What’s yours? Let me know below… The best answer gets a free Garrubbo Guide t-shirt!

Buon Appetito!

Ed Garrubbo

Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.


Sunday Pasta®: Penne alla Vodka

Total Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Sunday Pasta<sup>®</sup>: Penne alla Vodka


1 lb penne
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons vodka
Parmigiano, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Add the pasta when boiling.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and the butter. Add the onion and cook until golden. Add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup of water. Add the cream and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the vodka, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a few more minutes.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the vodka mixture. Mix over medium heat and then serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmigiano.

Edwin Garrubbo

Edwin Garrubbo

Ed Garrubbo has been studying, cooking, searching for, and thinking about la cucina italiana for as long as he can remember. He cooks a wide range of Italian dishes, but loves his pasta most. He visits restaurants, cooking schools, markets, and food artisans across Italy, and wherever Italians practice their craft. He is a member of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, and is a citizen of both the United States and Italy.

3 Responses to Sunday Pasta®: Penne alla Vodka

  1. Aunt Linda says:

    Sounds wonderful…I will try it. It is a favorite when I am out. Great History lesson too. Love Aunt Linda

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  2. Cat says:

    I made a modified version of this, and it came out much better than the recipe I tried last week from Food Network.

    I used 1/2 stick of butter and no olive oil. I used 1/3 cup of vodka and ignited it, adding the paste, pasta water, and 1 tsp salt. I also added 2 tbsp fresh basil and a pinch of red pepper. I mixed the Parmesan into the dish with the pasta (about 1/3 cup). Everyone really liked it!

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