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Penne With Vodka Sauce

We have been waiting impatiently for spring here in Western Michigan.  According to one of our local meteorologists, we received more snow in April than we did in December.  A lifelong resident told me that it has been known to snow as late in the year as Mother’s Day.  Hopefully, that will not be the case this year. In the years I have been living here, we have had the occasional early Spring.  Just two years ago, a pretty tree was blooming outside my home office window.

Blooming Tree

If you are looking for something to warm up any remaining cold days, this hearty Penne with Vodka Sauce is just the right recipe.

Penne with Vodka Sauce (Penne alla Vodka) has been around since the 1970s, however, the origins of it are unclear.  There are at least three claims as to its invention.  Cookbook author,  Pasquale Bruno, Jr., claims the recipe was invented at Dante a restaurant in Bologna, Italy.  Another possible inventor of the recipe is James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University in New York City.  My favorite claim is that Luigi Franzese prepared the first version of this recipe at the New York City restaurant Orsini when he used a nearby glass of Russian vodka to thin a tomato sauce.  Thanks to Wikipedia as source material.

Whoever invented the recipe, I’m just glad they did.  It is one of my favorites, and also really easy to prepare.  Typically, this pasta dish contains penne, crushed tomatoes, onions, heavy cream and vodka.  I love serving the sauce over other types of pasta, such as ravioli.


Penne with Vodka Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 basil leaves chopped
1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces dried penne pasta, cooked and drained

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil and sauté the onions till translucent.  Remove from the heat and add the crushed tomatoes and vodka.  Return to the heat and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the grated cheese and stir until melted and combined.  Add the salt, pepper, basil and the cream to the tomato mixture.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Serve over the penne and garnish with basil and parmesan cheese.  


Makes for a great meatless Monday dinner.


Italian Tomato Sauce for Pasta

Pasta. Nearly everyone loves pasta. Tomato sauce is not the only sauce that can be used with pasta but in my opinion it is the best one to be paired with it. No need to buy the tomato sauce in the jar when homemade is so easy to make. This is a simple tomato sauce that is a perfect foundation for any pasta recipe, chicken or even pizza. Typically, I serve it with Angel Hair Spaghetti, with the addition of ground beef to the sauce.

According to Wikipedia, the use of tomato sauce with pasta appears for the first time in the Italian cookbook L’Apicio modern, by Roman Chef Francesco Leonardi, edited in 1790.

This recipe is adapted from a beloved cookbook that is no longer in print, European Cooking, Copyright 1958. It has traditional recipes from twenty-four countries, this recipe being adapted from Italy. The book was purchased by a family member years ago while in Europe and, fortunately for me, handed down to me.

The picky eaters in your family will love this. I know because it is a favorite of several picky eaters in my family.

Don’t worry about using canned tomatoes in this recipe. Just try to buy a good brand. I have used this recipe substituting fresh tomatoes in the summer and can’t tell a big difference between the two. This recipe can be doubled and it also can be frozen.

Italian Tomato Sauce for Pasta

Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
cup chopped onion
1 28-ounce size can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 14.5-ounce size can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat oil in a dutch oven and saute the onion until translucent.  Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, salt, pepper and bay leaf.  Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered 1 1/2 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Add oregano and basil and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 1 quart.

Meat Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 quart Tomato Sauce (see above recipe)

Heat olive oil and brown meat. Drain and return to the pan. Add tomato sauce and simmer uncovered about 1/2 hour. Serve over your favorite pasta.


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