Penne alla vodka

Penne alla vodka
Course Pasta
Place of origin Italy
Main ingredients Penne, vodka, cream, tomatoes, onions
Cookbook: Penne alla vodka  Media: Penne alla vodka

Penne alla vodka is a pasta dish made with vodka and penne pasta, usually made with heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and sometimes sausage, pancetta or peas.


The exact origins of penne alla vodka are unclear. In her book Food for Friends, Barbara Kafka claims the dish was common in Italy before becoming popular in America in the early 1980's.[1]

There have been multiple claims to the invention of the dish. According to Pasquale Bruno, Jr., author of The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook, penne alla vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy.[2] Other historians of the culinary arts recognize James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University, as the inventor of penne alla vodka.[3]

The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook states that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy.[4]


Along with the penne pasta, this dish generally contains cream sauce mixed with tomatoes or red sauce, which are a combination unusual in Italian cooking because the acidity of the tomatoes tends to make the oil in the cream separate. The vodka serves as an emulsifier, allowing the water and lipids to remain mixed together. It is also thought to release certain flavors from the tomato that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is seen in other vodka sauces, as well.

See also


  1. Food for Friends by Barbara Kafka: Harper & Row, 1984
  2. The ultimate pasta cookbook By Pasquale Bruno New York : Contemporary Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-8092-3169-0
  3. Famous Italian Recipes By Justin M. Rotundo-Shanes, Boston: G. Lee Press, 1981.
  4. Essentials of Italian. Steve Seigelman. Williams Sonoma books, 2008.
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