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Playing Penne alla Vodka with Bacon


  • 2 tablespoons EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta or guanciale or bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small fresh chili, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup stock
  • 1 28- to 32-ounce can plum tomatoes
  • A few leaves of basil, torn
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Serves: 4


Heat EVOO in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add pancetta, guanciale or bacon, and crisp at edges, 2-3 minutes. Add onions, garlic, bay, chili and thyme; cook to tender. Add tomato paste, stir 1 minute then add flour and stir a minute more. Add vodka then stock, tomatoes and basil. Break up tomatoes and simmer. Add cream and cook 30 minutes at a gentle bubble.

Cook pasta to al dente in salted boiling water; reserve 1/2 cup starchy liquid. Drain pasta, toss with sauce and starchy water. Remove from heat, toss with a handful of cheese and serve.