I had heard about Penne Alla Vodka long before I decided to give it a shot. Perhaps it was my not so fond memories involving vodka that we won’t really go into detail about here, that prevented me from trying it. But my 21st birthday aside, I gave it a shot recently and fell in love with it. The vodka is not over-powering but compliments the tomatoes, cream and bacon, yes bacon, very nicely.
We’ve all heard it before: everything is better with bacon. Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Take this pasta for instance, I decided to add bacon to this recipe because I love the smoky flavor and the little bit of crunch that it adds to the sauce. With that said, I know that not everyone thinks that everything is better with bacon. If you are vegetarian or (gasp!) don’t like bacon, simply omit the bacon and substitute 1 tablespoon of olive oil for the bacon drippings.
In a large pan cook bacon over medium heat until browned, about 5 – 7 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate and set aside.
Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Add onions, garlic and crushed red pepper to reserved bacon drippings and cook until onions are translucent about 5 minutes. Pour in vodka. Cook 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
After sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, whisk 1 tablespoon of sauce into cream to temper it. Slowly stir tempered cream into the tomato sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce. Stir to combine.
Return bacon to the pasta and stir in basil and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red peppers.