Vodka sauce? Amazing. Baked ziti? Amazing. Baked penne alla vodka? Mind blowing! This pasta dish is my favorite go-to for parties since you can prepare it in advance and cook it right before serving for a hot, bubbling entree that's full of creamy, salty Italian flavors.
Technique tips: Be careful when adding the vodka. You can pull the skillet from the flame to be safe to ensure that the alcohol does not ignite.
Do not overcook the pasta or it will be too mushy after baking.
Swap Option: Use ziti or cavatappi instead of penne.
Make the vodka sauce:1.
In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.2.
Add the pancetta and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes.3.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.4.
Carefully add the vodka. Cook until reduced by half for 1 to 2 minutes.5.
Add the cream and tomato sauce and stir to combine.6.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat.7.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook for just three quarters of the recommended cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before straining.8.
Add the cooked pasta, reserved cooking water, pecorino and pepper to the vodka sauce and stir to combine.
Assemble the Penne alla Vodka:9.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.10.
Add the ricotta and ⅔ of the shredded mozzarella to the penne mixture and stir until well combined.11.
Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and spread the mixture evenly across the pan.12.
Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly over the top.13.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.14.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.15.
Turn on the broiler and bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.