Fennel and Tarragon Penne alla Vodka

Fennel and tarragon merge well with a creamy tomato vodka sauce. Toss sauce with penne for an appetizing meal.


  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28-32 ounces), preferably D.O.P.
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • A small handful of basil leaves, torn
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for serving


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water.

While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat the EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the butter and cook until foaming. Stir in the fennel, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid and the vodka. Break up the tomatoes with a potato masher. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes. Stir in the cream, tarragon and basil; simmer briefly. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the reserved pasta cooking water into the sauce. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and pass the cheese at the table.

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