My husband and I first tasted this dish 14 years ago while living in New York City. I am a California native who believed Olive Garden was authentic Italian food. Moving to New York changed my notion of Italian food. We didn’t have a lot of money and I was afraid to order outside my comfort zone out of fear of wasting money. However, I quickly realized you can never have a bad meal in New York. We lived in the Bronx and frequently ate at a restaurant named Pasta Pasta. One day, I decided to “walk on the wild side” and order something new. The menu description read, “Pancetta, vodka, and cream.” How could that possibly be bad? When the waiter placed the dish in front of me I was struck by its color. I took one bite and was instantly in love. I experimented quite a bit to capture Pasta Pasta’s version. Now my family is completely hooked on this dish. I find myself out of time in this holiday season, and I’m grateful for the ease and taste of this dish. Perfect for a busy weeknight, and tasty enough for entertaining. Buon Appeptito!
1 pound of penne rigate
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
3-4 ounces of uncured pancetta or 3 slices of bacon chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2-3 shallots chopped or to yield 1/2 cup
4 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup of vodka
1/4 cup of cream
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Pinch of crushed chili pepper
Chiffonade of basil
Black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of kosher salt for pasta water
Boil water in large pot for pasta. Add olive oil and pancetta in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook pancetta until lightly brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add shallots and soften for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add crushed tomatoes, vodka, and crushed chili peppers and bring to boil. Lower heat level to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Once the pot of water has reached a rumbling boil, add salt and pasta to the water. Cook pasta for 7 minutes to ensure al dente. Add cream to the sauce 2 minutes before the pasta is finished. Once pasta is cooked and strained, combine it with the sauce. Turn off heat, and add parmigiano-reggiano, basil, and black pepper.
Serve with a rustic baguette, glass of wine, and garden salad.
1. I ladle the pasta from the water using a slotted spoon to reserve the pasta water. If my vodka sauce is to tight, I can add pasta water to loosen it.
2. Brown the pancetta enough without burning because it will soften in the sauce. Soft undercooked pancetta is not appetizing.
3. I do not add salt to the vodka sauce. The salted pasta water, pancetta, and parmigiano cheese add enough sodium to the dish.
4. I love the mild onion flavor of a shallot, but an onion can be used in it’s place.
5. I used pre-chopped pancetta and pre-shelled fresh garlic to save time.
What if I don’t eat pork?
1. Leaving out pancetta or bacon will not drastically effect the dish.
What is your favorite pasta recipe?