Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Penne alla Vodka and Vodka-Ginger Cocktail

I'm sure I heard the saying somewhere, "When life throws vodka at you, make Penne alla Vodka". Just like frozen peas, frozen edamame beans, coffee ice-cream and ice, vodka is also a crucial staple in my freezer. I never know when I'll need it, so it's better to have a good supply of it. This is one way to use vodka that won't give you a hangover though.

There are so many variations of this creamy, tomato based sauce pasta dish. One time I had penne alla vodka with cubes of pancetta and it was delicious (so as anything else with bacon I suppose); I've also had it with fiery red pepper flakes and that was delicious too...

I first made this back when I started uni and I couldn't recall the recipe I used, but I came up with my own since then which is pretty basic and not much different to many other recipes. The key however I think for a good penne alla vodka is timing. The sauce shouldn't simmer too long, otherwise you will lose the flavour of the vodka.

This is how I do it: get a big pot of water boiling on the stove. Whilst waiting for the water to boil, finely chop 1 onion and cook gently with some salt on a medium heat with olive oil and butter on a pan big enough to take the pasta and sauce later. When the onions became soft and translucent, add 2 finely chopped garlic and continue cooking, stirring occasionally and don't let the garlic burn.

When the water is boiling, add plenty of salt and add 250 gr of penne. You have to act fast now, because the pasta should be cooked in 8 - 10 minutes.  Add 1 can of chopped tomatoes to the onions and garlic mixture. I then add just a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of sauce. Let the sauce comes to a boil and then let it simmer. About a couple minutes before the pasta is cooked, stir in 60 ml of vodka. Use good quality vodka. It makes all the difference. Also add a couple tablespoons of single cream. The sauce will turn into a beautiful soft-red colour. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if it needs more salt, pepper or vodka... :)

Drain the cooked pasta and tip it into the sauce and mix well until everything is evenly coated with a little extra butter if you wish (I always do to make the sauce shine and for flavour too of course). Serve on a bowl and grate some Parmesan on top and chopped parsley if you got some.

To wash it all down, I like this refreshing vodka-ginger cocktail. The method below is great but you have to make the syrup mixture in advance to chill which I don't mind doing; but there are times when I just simply cannot wait. For a short-cut version of this cocktail, simply mix 3 parts of ginger ale and 1 part of vodka in a glass with crushed iced. Contrary to what I said at the beginning, too much of this might give you a hangover.

Vodka-Ginger Cocktail
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

200 g fresh ginger
1 litre water
300 g soft brown sugar

Place the vodka in the freezer. Peel the ginger, chop into small cubes. Place them in a saucepan, cover with water, add the sugar and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes. Purée this mixture and chill for 1 hour. Serve the ginger syrup with crushed iced and vodka in a highball glasses.


  1. I can't pass up that cocktail, I really love making one on a Sunday afternoon

  2. sounds to me the secret is, after the first cocktail, the sauce is ready... I never mess with good stuff and both of these sounds perfect

  3. I've never had this but it sounds delish! You're recipe is so simple and so quick to make!!

  4. Can you believe I never made a vodka sauce!? I need to fix that! And have one of your delicious cocktails too!

  5. Penne alla Vodka is one of my favorite dishes! And the cocktail....can I come to dinner next time??? :)

  6. I've got vodka in my freezer too...always. I'll have to give your nice easy recipe a try. I love speedy pasta dishes!

  7. One of my all-time favorite pasta dishes. Yours looks perfect. But can we talk about your cocktail?WOW!Looks refreshing and full of flavor from the ginger.

  8. Like Reeni, I really can't believe I've never made this sauce. Probably because I don't generally have vodka in the freezer... but I've always got gin in the cupboard! I don't think that would work.

  9. I have tried vodka pasta sauce once but have never made it. I like the idea of keeping vodka in the freezer. Makes more room in the drinks cupboard for other tipples like Frangelico!

    The cocktail looks so refreshing - cheers (clink)!

  10. Sadly Michael, I can't drink vodka so I'm left to stare at your lovely penne dish and cocktail and wonder, do they taste as wonderful as they do in my mind (I mean, if I was to know how vodka actually tastes like!)? I'm very sure they do!

  11. I flew all the way over to your blog to tell you where I am going on vacation...going to jacksonhole wyoming...lots of snow, sledding, sleigh rides, yosemite...so much!

  12. Oh so nice...this is a pasta dish to savor, and that cocktail...again so nice :)

  13. Oh that cocktail sounds delicious! I have some vodka in my freezer too...

  14. This recipe sounds great! We definitely need to taste it!