A Squared: What's For Dinner Wednesday: Mini Penne Alla Vodka

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Mini Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka is one of our favorite pasta dishes in this house. It's delicious and comforting and actually very easy to make. Penne alla Vodka is one of the first meals that I made for Alex when we had just started dating. I was young with a tiny apartment, very few pots and pans, and a lot of hard alcohol in my kitchen (hey, I was 23). Given those parameters, I knew this was one recipe I could totally knock out of the park. Little did I know that my future husband would be so impressed by "a girl that can cook" that I could have blown him away by serving him a grilled cheese sandwich. Years later this recipe still shows up regularly in our dinner rotation.

This recipe is also a great way to use up leftovers. I had some half-and-half left over from another recipe and a lot of vodka in my freezer-- from our wedding. Yikes! I guess a lot really has changed since I was 23 (back then it would have been long gone by now!). I always have pasta in my pantry, fresh garlic and shallots or onions, and often have canned tomatoes too, so this is a great way to utilize ingredients you likely have on hand.


  • 8 oz. mini penne *I used Barilla White Fiber Mini Penne. This is one recipe where I'd say that a white pasta truly tastes better than a whole grain.  The White Fiber is a great compromise.
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14.5 oz. crushed tomatoes, liquid included
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Torn basil leaves, for serving
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, cook the pasta until al dente and drain in a colander.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and pepper flakes and stir until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the vodka and cook until reduced to about 3-4 Tbs., about 3 minutes. Add the half-and-half and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in dried basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the pasta to the warm sauce and toss to coat evenly.

Transfer to bowls and top with basil and grated cheese. Serves 3-4 depending on serving size.
Inspired by original recipe by Emeril Lagasse via FoodNetwork.com.

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