Vodka Penne


This vodka penne dish is definitely not something to have too often but it is a really good one to have on those times when you’re hungry after a long day and you need almost immediate gratification. It’s one of those handy ones where the sauce for the pasta is done by the time the pasta is cooked. As great as this recipe is, I feel that every college student has probably come close to it when rustling up a pasta dinner as it is essentially pasta, tomato, bacon and a bit of cheese on top. Though in my Uni days, when I did get my hands on some vodka it would never have made its way into the frying pan, unless all the glasses were already being used or dirty.

The idea of vodka in a dish like this might sound a bit off-putting but it really cooks down to nothing. I’ve seen it being used to make Swedish meatballs, and those guys take their balls very seriously, and it is fantastic for deglazing the pan and getting all those intensely flavoured caramelised bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporated into the sauce. It really makes everything become a bit jammy and all alcohol if cooked off long before the dish is done. If you were to call this by another name people would never suspect. I guess I may not technically be qualified to tell you when you should or shouldn’t give your kids hard liquor in this instance – go for it! What’s the worst that can happen?

Vodka Penne


  • 300 g dried penne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 125 g pancetta lardons or smoked streaky bacon
  • 4 tbsp vodka
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 200 ml cream
  • A medium bunch of parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley and grated parmesan to gernish


  1. Put pasta on to boil and season water with 1 tsp salt.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the bacon and fry until crispy and foaming.
  3. Once foaming, add the vodka, tomato purée, chilli flakes and cream and stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the caramelised bits.
  4. Add the parsley and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  6. Toss through the now cooked and drained pasta and mix to combine.
  7. Plate up, garnishing with some fresh parsley leaves and grated parmesan.
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