If you are looking for some comfort food that is rich and satisfying, I’ve got this delicious pasta recipe that will make you smile from ear to ear. Penne alla Vodka is not a traditional dish and its origin is unknown. It’s popular in the Italian-American community, however, because of its richness, it is not part of my weekly repertoire. You can serve it with a protein and a veggie of your choice. I used some guanciale that I brought back with me from Italy. This pork fat is not available in most grocery stores in the USA (unless, you go to a specialty store) and it’s perfectly ok to substitute it with pancetta. Let’s get cooking! Put on your apron, and follow me in the kitchen.
Serves: 6-8 Difficulty level: Easy to intermediate
Allow about 1 hour of prepping and cooking time
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. guanciale or pancetta
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup Vodka
1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 – 32 oz. jar, prepared sauce (meatless)
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Italian parsley, rough-chopped
1.5 lb. penne pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano, (Parmesan cheese)
1) In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat, sauté the guanciale for 2-3 minutes, add the onions, cook for 2-3 minutes, then the garlic, 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with the Vodka. Cook for about 2 minutes.
2) Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the flame, simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3) In the meanwhile, bring pasta water to a boil, add salt and cook penne al dente or as per package directions. Drain well. Return to the pot. Drizzle some of the sauce on the pasta so it doesn’t clump up.
4) At this time, the sauce should be almost done, slowly pour the cream into the tomato sauce, and gently stir it in one direction. Let it simmer on low for 5 minutes.
5) Use a ladle to pour the sauce over the pasta. Mix it well until each pasta is drenched in the sauce. Serve it in a large decorative bowl. Sprinkle the cheese on top and garnish with parsley.
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
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Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
Clams Casino originated in Rhode Island but there are many variations to this delightful appetizer. Some recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, butter and bacon. I substituted bacon for pancetta because of my infinite love affair with pancetta. They are mouthwatering appetizers and very festive. I suggest making them for a special occasion and serve them with a very chilled bubbly, like a Prosecco. It sure would set the tone for a smashing dinner party. I wanted to use the Cherrystone clams but could not find them. Please keep in mind, if using Cherrystone clams, you will need to chop them up and place them back on the half shell. I used the little neck clams and the result was like hitting a Royal Flush hand in poker. They are more tender and less chewy but the larger clams make a lovely presentation and popping food photos. The choice is yours. This dish is very popular in the Italian-American community, but can be enjoyed by everyone from all corners of the world. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.
Serves: 6 – or 8-10 when served with other appetizers – Difficulty level: Intermediate
40 little neck clams (small) or about 20-25 cherrystone size
2 tbps. extra virgin olive oil, + more for drizzle
4 oz. pancetta, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Seasoned breadcrumbs to lightly sprinkle
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or any parmesan cheese to lightly sprinkle
1/2 lemon, plus more for garnish
Flat-leave Italian parsley for garnishPreparation:
1) Wash and scrub the clams. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large flat metal pan, bake the clams for about 3 minutes or until they open. Remove them. Drain some of the liquid. Let them cool off. Detach the shells one by one, leaving the clams on half shell.
2) In the meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat olive oil (be careful, lower heat if it’s too high). Brown the pancetta, for about 1-2 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the bell peppers and shallots, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute’ for 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine for 2 minutes. Turn the burner off.
3) Time to assemble. Sprinkle a little breadcrumbs on each clam. Next, place the pancetta mixture, then sprinkle cheese lightly.
4) BROIL for about 3-4 minutes. Remove at once.
5) Place on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
6) Garnish with parsley and lemon slices. Bam! Your guests will be dazzled by your culinary creation.
Hope you’re happy as a clam after reading this delicious blogpost!
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
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So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....