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Most grocers now devote an entire aisle to prepared pasta sauce. Jarred sauces are great in a pinch (this is my go-to), but there’s something fresh and special about a simple sauce you make at home. With a handful of ingredients, you can very easily pull together this vodka sauce in no time, yet the flavors will incredibly rich, as though you’ve cooked for hours.

Do you guys use the NY Times cooking app? I use it often because it offers thousands of recipes that are easily searchable and created by chefs like Mark Bittman, who simplifies cooking, or healthy recipe developer, Martha Rose Shulman. The best part, aside from being free, is that somehow the app prevents your device from going into sleep mode so you don’t have to use your dirty cooking hands to wake it up mid-recipe. Someday, I will get that new family hub refrigerator with an online display to make recipe following a breeze, plus it has a camera on the inside so I cansee if my food does this when the door is closed.

I first came across the Nigella Lawson recipe for Penne alla Vodka in the NY Times. Although the flavor was rich and perky, the sauce was sparse. I have since doubled the sauce or halved the pasta, depending on if you’re an optimist or pessimist. You’ll see from the photos, there’s no pasta drowning in this dish. Even Cocoa agrees it looks just right.

penne alla vodka alla gatto

penne alla vodka

Canned tomatoes offer nearly the same nutritional value as fresh tomatoes. The vodka in penne alla vodka emulsifies the cream with the acidity of the tomatoes and also it is said brings out a unique flavor of the tomatoes. You will get rich flavor without needing much cream or butter.

preptime: 20 min 4-6 servings

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 T garlic-infused oil (chop 1/2 garlic and let sit in oil for 10 min or use our garlic confit)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes or 3 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 1 pounds penne rigate
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 4 T butter
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. Gather all ingredients and cooking tools: large pot for cooking pasta, large sauté pan, wooden spoon, potato masher, 1/2 cup measuring cup, 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, and a colander.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  3. Place sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add onion, oil and a sprinkling of salt. Sauté onion until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and their juices, and mash tomatoes into smaller pieces. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Add heavy cream, and remove from heat.
  6. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vodka, butter and salt to taste. Gently mix penne until butter is melted.
  7. Add pasta to tomato mixture, making sure all the pasta is coated.
  8. Pass Parmesan cheese for guests to serve themselves.


  • Use canned crushed tomatoes to avoid the mashing step, but keep in mind brands vary in consistency which is why many recipes call for peeled, whole tomatoes.
  • Use pre-chopped onions.

recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com

1 Comment

  1. lynn says Sep 11th 2016 12:07 am

    How I love Nigella! We don’t use the NY Times Cooking App, but do love Mark Bittman’s cooking app.

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