Penne alla vodka with mushrooms

Simple sauce is full of flavour!

Have I mentioned how much I love pasta? It’s so versatile – there are probably a zillion or more different sauce recipes out there. This tomato and cream based sauce – an improvement over most basic “rosas” – is quick to make and has quite an unusual flavour; you can make it as spicy as you like simply by adding a few extra hot peppers to the vodka before you steep it. Like most pasta sauces, if the sauce has a chance to sit for a little extra time, the flavours will blend better. The recipe is still delicious if you omit the prosciutto to make a vegetarian version. I am sure this would be great on gluten-free pasta as well.



  • 6 thin slices prosciutto, diced (omit for vegetarian version)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot pepper vodka*
  • 2 cups (500 mL) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh basil or Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated parmesan

*To make hot pepper vodka, heat vodka for 30 seconds in the microwave. Add 1 – 2 dried chili peppers, broken in half, (or 1/2 – 1 teaspoon (2.5 – 5 mL) of red pepper flakes) and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain vodka, discarding peppers and seeds.


  • In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat; add prosciutto and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
  • Add basil and vodka; simmer over medium heat for 3 minutes to allow alcohol to evaporate.
  • Stir in tomato sauce and cream and simmer gently on low heat for 10 minutes.
  • While sauce is simmering, cook penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup (60 mL) of starchy pasta cooking water then drain pasta and distribute among 4 bowls.
  • Stir reserved pasta cooking water into sauce then ladle hot sauce over pasta and garnish with basil or parsley and Parmesan.

Serves 4.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.