Penne alla Vodka with Peas and Pancetta

Penne alla Vodka is a delicious, creamy pasta dish that you’ll find at any Italian American restaurant, but you can easily prepare this at home. This version of the classic includes peas and pancetta for added texture and taste and is my favorite way to enjoy this dish. Topping it with torn (not cut!) basil will give a fresh finishing bite.

Penne alla Vodka with Peas and Pancetta

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 1/2 cups passata or tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, torn gently into small pieces by hand
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Red Pepper Flakes to taste


  1. Set a large pot on the stove to boil for the pasta. Salt generously.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Allow to heat, and swirl around the pan to coat. Add pancetta and cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. To the oil add red pepper flakes, onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is softened and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add vodka and allow to reduce by half, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add passata or pureed tomatoes, salt, and torn* basil. Stir and allow to come to a simmer.
  5. When the sauce is simmering, add heavy cream and parmesan and stir to combine. Add in peas and pancetta and return a simmer. Cover.
  6. Cook the pasta about 3-5 minutes shy of the box directions. Remove pasta with a sieve and add to the sauce, along with 1 cup pasta water. Toss and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes.
  7. Plate and top with parmesan cheese and torn* basil leaves, if desired.

*Tearing, as opposed to cutting, basil, preserves the flavor and structure of the basil leaf. Basil is very delicate, and so cutting it with a knife often alters the flavor.

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