Penne alla vodka is a classic Italian comfort food that's usually considered an indulgent splurge on special occasions. My take uses half-and-half instead of heavy cream, and I also swap in whole grain pasta for added fiber. It will also keep you fuller longer. This delicious dish is easy enough to make on any weeknight but it also makes a great presentation at any dinner party.
- 14 ounces whole grain penne (1 box)
- 2 cups marinara sauce (is using a store-bought sauce, make sure it has 7 grams of sugar, or less, per serving)
- ¼ cup half-and-half
- ½ cup part-skim ricotta
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- ¼ cup vodka
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1. Cook dry pasta according to package instructions for al dente. Drain and set aside until the sauce is done.
2. Liberally coat a skillet with oil spray and warm over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for about 3 minutes, then add in the minced garlic and saute together until everything is soft and lightly browned.
3. Add the vodka to the pan to help deglaze the browned bits. The alcohol will cook off during this time. Add in your jarred marinara sauce, then whisk in the half-and-half and reduce the heat to low.
4. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, then mix in the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, ground black pepper and, if you like a little heat, some red pepper flakes. Stir everything together to thoroughly combine,.
5. Once the sauce is mixed, add in the cooked pasta. Season with additional salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Tear up some fresh basil for additional flavor and color and them to the pan.
6. Toss everything together and serve right away.