I have been so inspired by recipes that friends and colleagues have been posting recently. But the one that really caught my eye and got my tastebuds excited is Penne Ala Vodka.

I’ve always wanted to make this dish but hesitated since it calls for heavy cream. Then I remembered a famous quote from the great Julia Child, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”  Well, I’m not afraid of butter, so on with the cream!

Penne Ala Vodka Ala Carolyn’s Recipe

Serves 4 -6 people nicely, Pair with a pinot noir or Italian red wine.


1 box of penne pasta (or whatever shortish pasta you have on hand, I like seashells too)

1 medium onion, diced finely

2 garlic cloves, smashed or chopped

2 TB olive oil ( or a little more )

1/2 cup vodka (or more if you like)

4 oz tomato paste ( or more if you like )

1 cup heavy cream ( or…you get it!)

pinch of red pepper flakes


Cook pasta according to package direction in salted water.

In a large saucepan saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.

When the onions are translucent, deglaze the pan with the vodka.

Stir and let cook for a minute or two.

Add in the tomato paste, stir until mixed in nicely.

Slowly add the heavy cream, gently stirring to blend into the sauce.

Add the red pepper flakes.

Cook on simmer or lower ( cream doesn’t like a lot of heat!) for a minute to warm.

Add the penne pasta to the sauce and gently fold it in until covered with the sauce.

Season to taste with salt if needed.

Plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you like.

( Option: Instead of or in addition to the tomato paste you can use canned pureed tomatoes or even canned diced tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.)