Restaurant worthy penne with vodka sauce!

One of my all time favorite dishes is penne with vodka sauce (I also like to add shrimp,  but I didn’t have any this time).  If I find an amazing penne w/ vodka sauce at a restaurant, I get it every time I go back.  The reason for that is because I was unsuccessful at making it that good at home, UNTIL NOW.  I have been working on this recipe for years it seems and a few nights ago I finally got it right. So now all my efforts are yours for the making!

As some of you may know, I am not a measurer (unless baking) so some of these are approx.  Always taste your cooking periodically and adjust the seasonings to your taste.


  • 1 box penne (1 box for 4-6 people), half box for 2-3 people
  • Small container heavy cream
  • 1 large can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 TBSP butter (I never said this recipe was healthy!)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 TBSP basil (you can use fresh if you have it)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 package diced pancetta.  I like this pre-packaged pancetta because it’s easy to work with.  You can buy pancetta from the deli counter if you like, you’d probably need 1/4 lb and slice it into small pieces.



  • Heat large pan on med-high heat and melt butter.
  • Add pancetta and saute until crispy.  Add garlic and shallot and saute for 1 minute.
  • Add vodka and cook until reduced slightly, about 4-5 minutes. 
  • Add diced tomatoes, add basil, and start with 4 twists of salt and 6 of pepper (I can’t really tell you how much to use if you do not ground your s&p because that’s the only way I do it – but try starting with 1 tsp each).
  • Start boiling your water for the pasta.
  • Add tomato paste.  Fill the tomato can 1/4 way with water and add.  Mix well and do a taste test. The pancetta will add a salty flavor as it cooks, so if you think you need more salt at this point, wait until this cooks up for a bit before adding more.  Your sauce should be pretty thick right now.  If it’s too thick for you, add another 1/4 can of water.  Let sauce simmer for about 5 minutes (and do another taste test).
  • Add 1 cup heavy cream and continue to simmer until pasta is ready.

This is what the sauce looks like at this point – amazing, you want to dive right in!


Serve with my homemade garlic bread (recipe below).  Enjoy!!


Making incredible garlic bread is so simple – so much better than frozen.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread
  • Spreadable butter
  • Sea salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Spice combo (onion powder 2 tsp, paprika, oregano, basil 1 tsp each)
  • Parmesan cheese


  • Slice loaf in half lengthwise
  • Heavily butter each half
  • Lightly sea salt each half followed by a sprinkling of the spice combo
  • Heavily sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese on each half
  • Bake at 350º until nice and brown on top like below!



About Stacey Tashjian

I am a mom of 2, happily married, work full time, and one of my favorite things to do is cook elaborate meals on the weekends! I also love to read, I'm a movie junkie, and if I win the lottery I will spend a good portion of my time traveling the world! Soccer has also been a great love of mine - I still play soccer (run a league in NJ) and have been playing since I was 4.
This entry was posted in Main Course, Pasta and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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