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My Mamma Makes It Better Episode 1: Penne Alla Vodka

Servings: 4 to 6

This authentic penne alla vodka recipe was submitted by Adriana Paolella. Adriana learned how to make this recipe by watching her Italian grandmother make it for her family. She loves this recipe because it’s especially great for entertaining, as you can make the sauce ahead of time and add pasta right before serving. See Adriana’s original recipe here.

See if her (grand)mamma really does make it better: watch Episode 1 of My Mamma Makes It Better here.


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, excess fat trimmed, lean part chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 4 Tbs. vodka
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 12 oz. penne pasta
  • Salt to taste


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Heat the oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add the prosciutto and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the vodka. (Optional: tilt the pan to one side and bring a lighter or match near the sauce. The vodka will ignite, stand back as the flame may flare up. Shake it around a bit to let it continue flaming. Let the flame continue until it burns out.)  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring and crushing the tomatoes with a fork, for about 10 minutes more. Stir in the cream and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, set it over medium-low heat, pour in the sauce, and toss. Season to taste with salt and serve right away.


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