My Penne alla Vodka with Bacon features a secret ingredient for the best vodka sauce ever! Don't miss this recipe that's a family favorite!
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I can vouch for that.
My vodka sauce recipe was born the evening I couldn't find the plain vodka. My hubby was out of town, I was all set to try my idea for pasta alla vodka with bacon, and I found myself staring at the liquor shelf for 20 minutes.
Where did the vodka go?
I did find peanut butter vodka (which in theory, sounds like the greatest invention known to woman, but in reality, not so much)...and pomegranate vodka. It was decision time.
I either had to figure out something else for dinner or give the pomegranate vodka a try. I knew it might be weird (and maybe okay at best), but oh my, it was WONDERFUL!
The vodka cream sauce has a mild, slightly fruity undertone that Makes. This. Dish.
Plus...there's bacon. Need I say more?
What's a shallot?
If you've never used shallots, they look like small brown onions on the outside. When you peel them, you will find clusters of purple cloves.
They taste like mild onions, yet sweeter, and almost melt when sautéed. The result is delicious flavor without noticeable chunks.
How to make penne alla vodka with bacon
You'll start by making the vodka sauce. Sauté a chopped shallot in some butter and olive oil.
You'll add the pomegranate vodka (substitute plain vodka if necessary) and cook it down for three minutes. Most of the alcohol will evaporate.
Next, you'll add crushed tomatoes (nice and thick!), ¾-inch pieces of cooked bacon, heavy cream and pepper. You'll let the sauce cook for 20 minutes.
When the sauce has five minutes left to cook, you'll stir in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. You'll taste to see if the vodka sauce needs salt. (It'll depend on the brand of tomatoes you used.)
Finally, you'll stir in cooked pasta. Penne is traditional, but you could substitute ziti, rigatoni or even fettuccine. Serve each portion with additional Parmesan and red pepper flakes!
Where to get pomegranate vodka
You can purchase pomegranate vodka at the liquor store or through an online vendor.
You also could try adding a little pomegranate juice (affiliate link) to regular vodka.
When I finally found the plain vodka
Remember how I couldn't find the regular vodka? It turns out, my hubby stores it in the freezer.
That's where I had seen it! How come I never learned vodka doesn't freeze back in Honors Chemistry in Catholic high school?
Oh wait...never mind.
Here's the thing...when I tested this recipe with plain vodka, it was good. But it lacked the "wow factor" from the pomegranate vodka. Regular vodka just produces a strong alcohol taste, without flavor.
I decided then and there...there's no going back. Pomegranate vodka for the win!
And no one will be able to guess the secret ingredient!
More creamy pasta dishes
- Garlic Alfredo
- Pumpkin Alfredo
- Italian Mac and Cheese
- Cacio e Pepe
- Linguine with Creamy Walnut Sauce
More delicious sauces
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Originally published on September 3, 2014 and updated now with new photos and text. )
Penne alla Vodka with Bacon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 medium-to-large shallot (chopped)
- ⅓ cup pomegranate vodka
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup whipping cream (liquid)
- 6 strips of lean bacon (cooked in microwave and cut into small pieces with scissors)
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
- salt for cooking pasta (plus salt for the sauce, if needed)
- 1 pound penne pasta (or ziti, rigatoni or fettuccine)
- red pepper flakes for serving
- Cook the bacon in the microwave until it's just done and no longer pink. (Wash your hands after touching any raw bacon.) While the bacon is cooking, peel and chop one whole shallot. When the bacon is done, blot it with paper towels and cut the bacon into ¾-inch pieces.
- Heat a large skillet on medium-high. Add oil and butter and stir to melt the butter. Add shallots. Cook until tender. Stir in the vodka and let it cook for 3 minutes to reduce. Stir in crushed tomatoes and the bacon. Put the heat on low and add cream. Stir to combine. Add about ¾ teaspoon black pepper. Let the sauce cook on low for 20 minutes, adding cheese during the last five minutes. After the cheese is added, taste for salt. Salt lightly if needed.
- While the sauce is cooking, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil with about a teaspoon of salt. About 10 minutes before the sauce is done, add pasta to the boiling water. Cook the pasta until al dente (check it three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package.) Drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce and stir to combine.
- Serve with extra grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes at the table.