2 plates of penne alla vodka on a dark wooden surface with blue napkins and matte gold forks.
Photography & Art Direction: Anthony Contrino – Food Styling: Katie Stilo

Just when you think tomato sauce can’t get any better, in walks in vodka sauce.  Add some salty pancetta and cream and you’ve got yourself a rich, flavorful sauce.  I like it as is, but don’t be afraid to make it a more hearty meal by bulking it up with some grilled chicken and ciliegine mozzarella or pan-seared shrimp.

You can grab my Everyday Tomato Sauce recipe HERE!

Penne alla Vodka

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, small dice
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated on a microplane
  • ½ cup vodka
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups Everyday Tomato Sauce
  • Generous pinch black pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving


  • In a large, high-sided skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
  • Add the pancetta and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Carefully add the vodka and cook until reduced by half, for a minute or two.
  • Add the cream and Everyday Tomato Sauce and whisk to combine.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
  • Add the penne and cook 2 minutes short of al dente; reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water before straining.
  • Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in.
  • Add the vodka sauce, reserved pasta water and pecorino cheese.
  • Cook, over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sauce begins to thicken, for about 2 minutes.
  • Serve immediately and top with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.


Be careful when adding the vodka. You can pull the skillet from the flame to be safe, so that the alcohol does not ignite.
For added protein, and to bulk up the dish, add ¾ pound cubed grilled chicken and 8 ounces halved ciliegine mozzarella balls.
Course: Pasta, Sauces
Author: Anthony Michael Contrino