I went to Boston* and all I ate was vodka**. Literally***.


**vodka sauce

***not literally

I went to a conference in Foxboro, and for some reason, the vodka sauce was, like, the sauce de jour for every meal. I had it for lunch twice (two different days, not like two lunches in a row – but I like the sound of that) on cheese ravioli, and for dinner once on penne with shrimp (giant, giant shrimp). For only being there 2 1/4 days, that seems like a lot of vodka sauce, right? Whatever.

Here’s my recipe for penne alla vodka (direct from Williams Sonoma) (My comments in italics)


  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Leaves from 3 or 4 large fresh flat-leaf parsley
    sprigs, coarsely chopped


Peel and seed the tomatoes, then cut them into small dice. If the tomatoes are very juicy, drain them for about 10 minutes in a colander. Set aside.
Peeling tomatoes is hard, particularly if you don’t know how to do it. And I didn’t the first two times I made this. I now leave the skin on when I make this. But there is a way to peel them fairly easily. You boil water and submerge the tomatoes for a minute in the water. Remove them from the water (use a ladle or something because they will be f-ing hot) and let them sit until they cool. The skin will be separating from the tomato flesh and will peel off very easily. Have at it.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until just starting to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the stovetop and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium heat and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

If you get the oil too hot, the garlic could burn, which you don’t want because then it becomes bitter. Not delicious. Another reason you don’t want the pan too hot is because you do not want the vodka to ignite. And that’s also why you want to remove the pan from the heat, and add the vodka away from the heat sauce. I always use a big pan, so I really can’t tell when it’s reduced by half, so I just eyeball it.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well and add the pasta to the fry pan.

I start this when I start the tomato step, and that is really early depending on what way you do the tomatoes, so just plan accordingly.

Add the cream and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the pasta is well coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour into a warmed large, shallow bowl. Add the parsley and toss briefly. Serve immediately.

This is absolutely best fresh, but the leftovers are great, too.
Serves 4.
Or two people, two times.
Anyway, here are some non-related non-food photos from the place I was when I ate vodka sauce this week.
Room with a view



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