Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce
From Cooking Light via Everything Gal

You learn something new everyday.  Today I learned that vodka + an open flame = fire.  Yeah, I guess technically I knew that already.  But short of saganaki in Greek restaurants and a handful of ill-advised flaming shots in college, I’d never experienced it up close and personal.  And I’d certainly never caused it unintentionally.

Here’s the good news: I did not burn the house down.  By some act of God the flames subsided despite more or less zero intervention from me and my 2 friends that I had over for dinner.  The bad news: I reaffirmed my utter state of panic and helplessness in a state of emergency.  Here’s how it went down.  Step 3 of the recipe, sauteing onions, was going smoothly, but it was taking me a little longer than expected to measure out the vodka for step 4.  I had my friend move the pan off the burner for a minute so we didn’t burn the onions.  Without thinking (my first mistake), I finished measuring the vodka and poured it into the pan in one fell swoop.  Well, sort of.  I got about half of it into the pan when flames engulfed the stove, courtesy of the open flame RIGHT NEXT TO THE PAN.  I reeled backwards, hurling the remaining vodka across the kitchen.  My friend tried backing out of the way, at which point she tripped over Ralph (always so helpful in the kitchen).  My response, naturally, was to yell for John over and over, a super useful reaction considering he had left 5 minutes earlier, as my friends had to remind me.  Suddenly I remembered the fire extinguisher under the sink!  I grabbed for it and promptly realized I have no idea how to operate a fire extinguisher.  Awesome.  It was at this point that my friends pointed out the flames’ merciful recession.

In the end, not only did the kitchen somehow escape unharmed, but miraculously the onions weren’t even burned!  I suppose this is the essence of flambeing food, but something tells me I’m not cut out for such cooking methods!  Luckily this pasta is delicious, and with the slightest bit of planning it doesn’t even have to be very dangerous – unless you’re into that sort of thing!


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (we used vegetable stock, because that’s what we had on hand)
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (use no-salt-added, if you can find it)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound penne, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion to pan, saute 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until soft and lightly golden.
  3. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, crushed red pepper, pepper and garlic to pan.  Cook 1 minute, stirring often.
  4. Add vodka and bring to a boil (raise heat to medium-high if necessary).
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil (raise heat a little if necessary), then simmer on low for 8 minutes.
  7. Place mixture in a blender.  Take out the center piece of the blender lid and cover with a towel instead.  This will let the steam out but keep the splattering in.  Process until smooth.
  8. Return sauce to pan.  Stir in cream and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cooked pasta.  Don’t add all the pasta you have at once.  See how much you want, based on your desired sauce:pasta ratio.
  10. Serve topped with basil and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

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One Response to Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

  1. Doreen Dodero says:

    One of lifes lessons that hopefully never repeats. Glad you had an excellent meal with the house still standing. How are your knife skills??? I don’t want to read about emergency vitits in your future.

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