Penne alla Vodka


The origins of penne alla vodka are mysterious and anonymous. There have been multiple claims to the invention of this rich and hearty pasta dish. An American law professor at Seton Hall University claims that her father Luigi Franzese, born in Naples, Italy, in 1931 concocted the original version, which he called penne alla Russa because of the addition of vodka to his tomato cream sauce.

He allegedly first prepared the dish table side for customers at the New York City restaurant Orsini in 1973. I bumped into this recipe quite accidentally while I was recycling a cardboard box that the Amore Tomato Paste came in. The recipe was printed on the inside of the box. Add bacon, pancetta, smoked chicken or sausage if you have it in your arsenal. Here’s my adaptation.

Penne alla Vodka
  • ½ stick of butter
  • ¼ cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Amore Tomato Paste
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ c. parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a saute pan. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper. Cook and stir constantly until well blended.
  2. Add the cream and vodka and cook for one minute.
  3. Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta. Add the sauce to the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheese and toss well.


So….what’s your poison? Pair this pasta with a sassy Zinfandel from Saucelito Canyon.  Complex and jammy. This red is a tease from the very beginning with a flirty finish.

Movie Night suggestion. To the outside world they were simply a Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess, and a Criminal, but to each other, they would always be the The Breakfast Club (1985).

Film trivia: John Hughes threatened to fire Judd Nelson for being such an ass to Molly Ringwald. Paul Gleason (Richard Vernon) convinced Hughes that Nelson was just trying to stay in character. Hmmm.

The ages of everyone in the principle cast at the time of filming are: Judd Nelson (26), Molly Ringwald (17), Emilio Estevez (23), Anthony Michael Hall (17) and Ally Sheedy (24). 

That one little itch could be telling  you something. The dandruff that Ally shakes onto her sketch for snow was achieved by sprinkling parmesan cheese.

The switchblade used in the film actually belonged to Judd Nelson. He explained that he carried it for protection purposes. Creepy.

The theme song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, was written for the film by Keith Forsey. It was a number one hit for Simple Minds, and both Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry turned down offers to record it first.

“Chicks can’t hold their smoke.” The marijuana the actors smoke in the film was actually oregano.

The David Bowie quote at the beginning of the film is pulled from his song ‘Changes,’ found on the 1971 album, ‘Hunky Dory’.

Every film needs a good cameo. This one comes in the form of John Hughes:  Brian’s father, who picks him up at the end of the film.