Penne alla Vodka with Broccoli

I was ready to retitle this blog: Cooking in the Dark because it was getting to be so difficult to take any pictures of anything I was cooking at dinner time. By the (even early) evening it was still dark and cloudy and cold. And then finally spring, or rather, summer, hit and now there is light in my kitchen all through dinnertime and even still after dinner so that I can shoo my children outside.

And so now that there is light when I’m cooking, there are photos of things on this one spot on my counter that has the perfect blend of indirect but bright light. So you’ll be getting lots of photos of things sitting in this square of space like this:


or this:



Penne alla Vodka!

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated (here if you subscribe). It is a delicious creamy sauce, with simple ingredients. Though in true CI fashion, it has me dirtying far more bowls and vessels than seems reasonable: straining/pureeing tomatoes: strainer, bowl underneath, food processor bowl, measuring cup for puree. But. It isn’t enough to deter me from making this dish.


For a weeknight meal I add broccoli to the pasta while it boils. Borrowed from another pasta/broccoli dish, it’s an easy way to cook two things in one pot.

Penne alla Vodka, Cook’s Illustrated

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Table salt
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Puree half of tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.

2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

Adding Broccoli: Cut ~ 1 pound of broccoli into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pasta pot when there are about 6 minutes left on your pasta cooking time.


Enjoy! Also this is a fantastic excuse for a Wednesday night bottle of wine.

4 thoughts on “Penne alla Vodka with Broccoli

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 )

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