Penne alla Vodka with Bacon

Bacon enhances the taste of classic penne alla vodka.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/4 pound pancetta or guanciale or bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small fresh chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup stock
  • 1 can plum tomatoes (28-32 ounces)
  • A few leaves of basil, torn
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add the pancetta, guanciale or bacon and crisp at the edges, 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, bay, chili pepper and thyme; cook to tender. Add the tomato paste, stir for 1 minute, then add the flour and stir for a minute more. Add the vodka, then the stock, tomatoes and basil. Break up the tomatoes and simmer.

Add the cream and cook for 30 minutes at a gentle bubble.

Cook the pasta to al dente in salted boiling water; reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta, then toss with the sauce and the starchy cooking water. Remove from the heat, toss with a handful of cheese and serve.

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