Pasta Jenny

What is Pasta Jenny, you might ask? It’s what my husband has affectionately nicknamed my version of Penne Alla Vodka.

I am sad to admit that for me, Pasta Jenny used to be jar sauce (For shame!), with vodka and cream mixed in, and then just adding the pasta. Quick and easy dinner right? But as I start to try more things in my quest to become better at cooking and baking, I’ve found a recipe that makes the sauce from scratch, and I haven’t looked back! No more jarred sauce for me, ever!

I initially found this recipe on one of my very favorite blogs, The Way the Cookie Crumbles. This is the same blog where I found my new pizza crust recipe. Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles is awesome – she has great recipes, gorgeous photos, and she does a lot of comparisons between numerous recipes to determine which is the best. (I am currently trying Alton Brown’s The Chewy Choc Chip Cookie thanks to her – more on that later!). But back to the penne alla vodka!

I saw this recipe on her blog, and I knew I had to try it! It came together easily, and it’s soooo GOOD! The first time Dave tried it, he asked if I made the sauce from scratch, and I was proud to say yes! You can definitely taste a difference if you’re used to using jarred sauces. Give this recipe a try, it’s quick, easy and really delicious! Maybe your husband will give it own nickname 🙂

Check out Bridget’s pictures – they’re way better than mine 😛  Also, I agree with Bridget’s notes on this one. Feel free to edit this however you like, it won’t turn out bad! I use regular canned unseasoned tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes because we like ours saucier. I usually omit the basil because I can’t find it here. I never make this the same, but it’s always delicious.  Trust me 🙂

Penna alla Vodka

(Sourced from How the Cookie Crumbles & Cook’s Illustrated)

My omissions/additions are in Italics.


1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved (I’ve used half diced, half sauce as well as all sauce – it’s personal preference)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
¼-½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning (I usually add this to the tomato mixture)
1/2 teaspoon sugar – I like a little sweetness along with the spicy in this dish!

1/2 tsp table salt
⅓ cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves (I usually omit this since I can’t find it here, but add it if you have it!)
fresh parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Dice the remaining tomatoes into ½-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine the pureed and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1⅔ cups). Add reserved tomato liquid to equal 2 cups. (I don’t measure this out, since I use all sauce and no diced tomatoes normally, and it’s fine).

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are light golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower the heat to medium if the simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in the cream and cook until hot, about 1 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and transfer the pasta back to the Dutch oven. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

Enjoy! 🙂


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