Pretty in Pink

comments 9


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!

Time-30 minutes



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.

Cook’s Note

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?


The Author

First off, I'm not a writer. This should be abundantly clear as you read this bio. I'm not a trained Chef either. I'm a Mother, Wife, Registered Nurse and Fraudulent Chef. Why a blog you ask? Well, I don't want to be a line cook, executive Chef, or a restaurant owner. I just want to cook what I want, when I want, and for who I want. Cooking is a creative outlet for me. I don't even consider myself a blogger because I don't blog often. So advertising dollars and web fame is not my motive. Finding the time to cook, write up a recipe, photograph it while maintaining a job and household is challenging. However, it has given me great joy over the years to see people carrying on dishes that I've developed. It's also an online cookbook that I can reflect on. My cooking is an expression of the strong women in my life and inspired dishes from my favorite restaurants. I'm a recipe impostor of dishes from restaurants I love. Furthermore, many of the recipes are spruced up from my childhood. I'm a Mexican-American, native Californian who has spent time in New York and married a first generation Costa Rican. My cooking reflects all of these aspects. Karen's Kitchen is not a Mexican food blog. As much as I'd like to fit into a pretty little red, white and green box. I find it too limiting and reject the notion of creating a Latino point of view because it makes a blog cohesive. So my recipes are all over the place, with no rhyme or reason. Home cooks never apologize for not graduating from culinary school. You will find that my recipes are easy to follow and geared for the home cook. They look amazing and will make you look like a Domestic God/Goddess in front of your loved ones. It's my hope that you find the love for cooking and make some of my recipes your own. Cheers to cooking, eating and surrounding yourself with lovely people.


  1. Judith says

    My penne al forno is definitely inspired by this dish. Add a little gardein, and you’ve got a great veggie option with protein.

  2. Rosemary Loya says

    Hi Karen, YUMMY! Thank you for my favorite PENNE ALLA VODKA recipe. I hope my comes out as good as yours. Does it matter what kind of Vodka?
    Thanks again & again
    Love, Aunt Rosemary

    • Hi Tia,
      I usually use cheap vodka like Popov. I’ve had to use Absolute Vodka when I ran out of the cheap stuff. I can’t tell the difference between them. Whatever you have will work.

  3. Jean Margiotta says

    We made it. It was so good. I guess Sandy told you the story of running into John at Vons. I had sent him there to get the ingredients that we didn’t have and there was Sandy buying her ingredients to make the recipe.
    Anyway keep sending these great recipes.
    Love, Jean

    • Hi Jean,
      Sandy did tell me she ran into John. Great minds think alike I guess. Sandy asked me a great question that I should have added to my cook’s note. I never wash the pasta after it’s been cooked. The starchiness helps the sauce adhere to the pasta. Thanks for the feedback!
      Happy Cooking,

  4. Pingback: 6 Cheese stuffed shells with Vodka meat sauce | Cup of Tea

  5. Sandy Lugo says

    The Penne Alla Vodka was awesome!!!! We are looking forward to the next receipe!!!!
    Thank you Karen!!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s