Meat Free Monday: Penne with Vodka Sauce

by Deena on January 2, 2012

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Here’s hoping you had a great start to the New Year.  Personally, I spend every January 1st with my entire family celebrating the new year with our traditional Southern meal: Ham, Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Corn Bread.  The black eyed peas and collard greens are supposed to represent dollars & sense and bring us good luck in the new year.

My brother and I hated this meal growing up – typically gagging and whining our way through dinner.  It’s funny though our parents always said – eventually you will grow up to like this meal.  Well, I won’t say either of us actually love them now… but I don’t mind the collard greens anymore (I put a lot of vinegar on them).

And we both continue the tradition with  our own kids…  “Yes, you have to eat one spoonful of both the collard greens  and black eyed peas before you can get up from the table”.  Yes, I know your friends are eating Chinese Food today.  You’ll appreciate the tradition when you get older.  Try it with a bite of cornbread…” and so the “real” tradition continues from one generation to the next in my family.

But I’ve gotten off course… today’s article is our first Meat Free Monday Recipe of the new year.   And it’s a good one.  Of course if your Angela – you’ve just sworn off bread, pasta, and anything tasty for 21 days in the name of detoxing.  So, you’ll have to save this one for a post detox day.

Penne with Vodka Sauce


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 pound penne pasta


1.  In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.

2.  Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time (up to 4 tablespoons), to round out the flavor.

4.  Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

5.  Pour  tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

6.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

We all enjoyed this recipe.  I will say though that next time I will reduce the vodka amount by 1/2.  The taste was a little strong for the kids even after I reduced the sauce down.

This recipe is from  Food Network.

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