Our favorite Italian restaurant is a big, fat, chain restaurant. A big, fat chain. They have a version of penne alla vodka that is to die for. It’s loaded with prosciutto, chicken, chives and fat. Lots and lots of fat in amounts over which I have no control.
I consider a good dinner out a challenge – a challenge to make that dish at home, cheaper and lighter. We call it “Take-out Fake-out.” Pasta is usually pretty budget-friendly when made at home – when I’m looking to shave a few dollars from our grocery bill, the first thing I do is add a pasta dish or two to the menu. But eating pasta out? We can easily drop $30 a head on pasta, many, many times the cost of making the dish at home.
This dish comes together pretty quickly, or at least it seems to with a bottle of Pinot Noir open. Toss in a loaf of rosemary bread and we’re eating out at home, for a fraction of the cost and free access to unlimited house wine
Penne alla Vodka
Pasta and chicken in a creamy vodka sauce.
- 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 4-6 oz prosciutto, chopped
- 1/3 cup shallot, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 28-oz crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup SKYY vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (I sub fat-free half and half when I can)
- 1 lb mini-penne
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped chives, plus more garnish
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Parmesan, for garnish
- Bring pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta to the water just after adding vodka to the sauce.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add prosciutto and shallot and cook until the shallots have softened and the prosciutto has mostly browned. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and increase flame to medium-high heat.
- Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to cooktop and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in cream, chicken, and chives and cook until hot, about 2 minutes. Stir in the 2 tsp olive oil and remove from heat.
- Add pasta sauce to drained penne pasta and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide into 4 bowls and top with Parmesan and additional chives.
Yields: 4 servings
Estimated time: 30 minutes