Penne Alla Pepper Vodka

A spicy take on a modern classic.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Matthew Cetta


  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Spanish Onion chopped
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic pressed
  • 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 Cup Pepper Vodka
  • 2 28-ounce Cans Whole San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2 Teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 12 oz. of Penne
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil cut into ribbons
  • 4 Whole Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp Fish Sauce
  • ½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF and preheat a cast iron, or other oven safe, skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat for another minute.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook for until softened and beginning to brown. (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add the red pepper and oregano and cook for a minute more.
  4. Add the vodka and cook until reduced by half. (about 5-7 minutes) and while the vodka is reducing, drain the tomatoes in a colander.
  5. Crush the whole tomatoes in the palm of your hand directly into the pan. Be careful not to let tomato squirt onto yourself.
  6. Add the kosher salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  8. Pour the contents of the pan into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the puree back into the pan.
  9. Reheat the sauce over medium heat. Add the basil ribbons, heavy cream, and fish sauce. Stir to incorporate and let it simmer.
  10. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook al dente according to the package. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  11. Add the water to the sauce and stir. Then add the penne and toss and cook for about a minute more.
  12. Add the parmesan cheese and stir.
  13. Garnish with basil and serve with more parmesan and red pepper on the side.