Penne alla vodka

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Penne alla vodka
Place of originItaly
Cooking time 8 minutes to 10 minutes
Serving temperaturehot
Main ingredientsPenne, vodka, cream, tomatoes, onion

Penne alla vodka is a pasta dish made with vodka and penne pasta, usually made with heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and sometimes sausage, pancetta or peas.

The recipe became very popular in Italy and in the United States around the 1980s, when it was offered to discotheque customers.[1] The recipe thus became an icon of the fashionable cuisine of the time, which preferred the use of cream in first courses. Even today, penne alla vodka is a typical dish of Italian-American cuisine.[2]


The exact origins of penne alla vodka are unclear.

The first use of vodka in a pasta dish is attested on 1974, when the Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi published the cookbook L'Abbuffone (means "the bouffe-men", named after the Tognazzi's movie La Grande Bouffe), which included his recipe of pasta all'infuriata ('furious pasta'), described as a sort of pasta all'arrabbiata, made with ½ kg of penne, ½ kg of fresh peeled tomatoes, a shot of vodka, chili pepper, oil, garlic, and bay leaves. Tognazzi suggested also that, if using a Polish vodka with chilli ("formidable, tremendous, very strong, very hot, deadly"), the natural chilli pepper can be omitted.[3]

There have been multiple claims to the invention of the dish. According to Pasquale Bruno Jr., author of The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook, penne alla vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy.[4] Other historians of the culinary arts recognize James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University, as the inventor of penne alla vodka.[5]

The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook states that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy.[6] In her book Food for Friends, Barbara Kafka writes the dish was common in Italy before becoming popular in America in the early 1980s.[7]

Penne alla vodka

In the 1980s, another recipe based on penne and vodka, called penne alla moscovita (penne on Moscow style), but made with smoked salmon, cream and caviar (or variant with cream and shrimps), became very popular. Because of the particularity and novelty of the recipe compared to traditional Italian cuisine, it was widespread in the discos of the Emilia-Romagna Riviera with the generic name of "penne alla vodka".[citation needed]

On October 25, 2016, the Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries rediscovered this recipe from the 1980s, proposing it again on the occasion of the 18th edition of the World Pasta Day organized in Moscow, as symbol of friendship between Italy and Russia.[8] The initiative was successful, so much so that research in the U.S. has shown that penne alla vodka have become the second most sought after dish of pasta in search engines, behind only pasta alla Bolognese.[9]


Penne alla vodka

Along with the penne pasta, this dish generally contains cream sauce mixed with marinara sauce or tomato paste, which are a combination unusual in Italian cooking because the acidity of the tomatoes tends to make the oil in the cream separate. The ethanol (vodka) serves as an emulsifier, allowing the water and lipids to remain mixed together.[10]

Ethanol is also thought to solvate certain flavors from the tomato that would otherwise be inaccessible in water. This is seen in other vodka sauces, as well.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cinzia Alfè (13 October 2017). "Riabilitiamo le penne alla vodka dall'ingiusta condizione di discredito". Dissapore.
  2. ^ Long, Lucy. Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia. p. 321.
  3. ^ Ugo Tognazzi (1974). Penne all'infuriata. L'Abbuffone (in Italian). Milan: Rizzoli Editore. p. 105.
  4. ^ The ultimate pasta cookbook by Pasquale Bruno New York : Contemporary Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-8092-3169-0
  5. ^ Famous Italian Recipes by Justin M. Rotundo-Shanes, Boston: G. Lee Press, 1981.
  6. ^ Essentials of Italian. Steve Seigelman. Williams Sonoma books, 2008.
  7. ^ Food for Friends by Barbara Kafka: Harper & Row, 1984
  8. ^ Svetlana Borisova (25 October 2016). "Il ritorno delle penne alla Vodka". Russia Beyond.
  9. ^ "Penne alla vodka 2ª ricetta più "cliccata" negli USA: torna di moda il piatto simbolo degli anni '80 nel segno dell'amicizia gastronomica tra Italia e Russia" (PDF). Barilla.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Stella Culinary: What Is An Emulsion? A Cook's Guide

External links[edit]