Penne alla Vodka is one of the most iconic recipes of the 80s. The origin of this popular dish is uncertain and controversial: Italy and the United States claim both its creation. Besides the origin of Penne alla Vodka, if you never tasted this recipe, it’s time to give it a try. The pasta is tossed into a creamy Vodka sauce composed by pancetta, tomato puree, and heavy cream. Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper and fresh parsley complete this delicious dish. Here the recipe and the history!
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A RENAISSANCE OF A CLASSIC
Penne alla Vodka, along with Scampi Cocktail and Sausage creamy pasta, is a symbol of the Italian 80s. This recipe personifies the spirit of those years: it’s pretty quick and easy to make, with a sophisticated looking and a touch of exotic.
After a couple of decades of popularity, Penne alla Vodka in Italy went out of Fashion with the end of the XX Century. The Renaissance of Penne alla Vodka happens the 25th October 2016 on the occasion of Word Pasta Day organized in Russia. During the event, Valentino Bontempi, the most famous Italian chef in Russia, presented a personal variation of Penne alla Vodka to represent the Italian delegation.
ORIGIN OF PENNE ALLA VODKA
The origin of the Penne alla Vodka recipe has been disputed between Italy and the United States: both claim the creation of this recipe.
Following the Italian side, the Penne alla Vodka has been invented in a Restaurant based in the city of Bologna called Dante around the mid of the 70s.
To support the creation of this dish in the United States, we have two tales. The first one maintain the creation by Luigi Franzese, the Italian American chef of Orsini Restaurant in New York. Another theory gives the paternity of Penne alla Vodka a graduate of Columbia University named James Doty.
Besides the origin, whether Italian or American, can Penne alla Vodka be considered an authentic Italian recipe? Evaluating the ingredients, the technique, and the mark that it left into the Italian cuisine, the answer is: yes!
PENNE ALLA VODKA IN ITALY: REFINED OR VULGAR RECIPE?
As I said, the height of Penne alla Vodka fame in Italy has been between the 80s and 90s. In the beginning, this dish had been considered a polished recipe. Furthermore, the ingredients of this recipe are very common and ready-to-use in a typical Italian pantry. For this, at that time Penne alla Vodka was the most prepared by young men on the first date to impress the partner. On the 80s, xenophilia had been very fashionable in Italy, and unify the traditional technique of basting the sauce with an exotic spirit like vodka was considered cool and trendy.
Because its popularity, and the convenient price of the ingredients, on the late 80s beginning of the 90s, Penne alla Vodka started to be served in huge quantities and plastic cutlery into the Night clubs, symbolizing a vulgar way to appear posh. As the years go by, Penne alla Vodka has been disappeared from the Italian Restaurant’s menus since nowadays.
PENNE ALLA VODKA TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
Penne alla Vodka is a very simple recipe with some variation, depending on the country and the chefs. Here some suggestions:
MEAT – Traditionally the meat is fresh diced Pancetta (pork belly). A minority of chefs prefer to use cured Speck
CHEESE – Some chefs prefer to avoid any cheese, but particularly in Italy, its common to add flavor with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
HERBS – Same thing of cheese. Some prefer to avoid any herbs. Some other add minced parsley to equilibrate the fat of heavy cream with a fresh note.
PENNE ALLA VODKA RECIPE
- 14 oz (400 g) short pasta
- 10.5 oz (300 g) diced pancetta
- 1 medium onion
- 2.5 cups (550 g) tomato puree
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (120 g) heavy cream
- 2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 dash black pepper (alternatively, 1 pinch chili powder)
- 4.5 tbsp coarse salt
- to taste table salt
- ONION AND PANCETTA
First, peel and mince the onion. Then pour the onion into a saucepan along with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and sauté over medium heat until smooth and translucent, not caramelized.
At this point, ad the diced pancetta, and sauté a few minutes. Then, raise the flame, baste with the vodka and stir-fry until the alcoholic part of the spirit has evaporated (about 5 minutes). Finally, low the flame to medium.
- VODKA SAUCE
Now, add the tomato puree, and set the flame in order to let the sauce very gently bubbling. Cook until the tomato sauce becomes thick but still creamy (about 20 minutes). At this point, add the heavy cream and cook 5 minutes more, stirring until consistent. Far from the heat, add 1 tbsp of Parmigiano Reggiano, the minced fresh parsley, and a dash of black pepper, stirring until uniform.
- PENNE ALLA VODKA
Bring to to boil a pot filled with water. Then, add the coarse salt and cook the pasta until "al dente". Now raise the pasta, saving a cup of cooking water. Toss the pasta with the vodka sauce: if the sauce becomes too thick, add a couple of tbsp of the cooking water. Finally, garnish with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve immediately.
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