Penne alla Vodka and Crispy Parmesan

Servings: 4 

Prep Time:  10 minutes

Cook Time:  25 minutes

*your Chef will lead you through all the techniques so prepping ahead of class is optional


Ingredients for Pasta:

  • kosher salt
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4-5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • ¾ cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 pound penne pasta (or rigatoni would be great too)
  • basil leaves (for serving)

Ingredients for Crispy Parmesan:

  • 1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan (about 4 ounces)
  • fresh cracked black pepper


  1. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Once at a boil, add a small handful of kosher salt. 
  2. Preheat your oven to 400°F.  To make the parmesan crisps, place a sheet of parchment paper on two separate baking sheets.  Take the grated parmesan cheese and place in 1 to 1 ½  tablespoon sized piles on top of the parchment paper, taking care to space them about an inch apart as they will spread while cooking.  Gently flatten each pile of cheese and sprinkle with a bit of fresh black pepper. 
  3. Place the sheets of parmesan into your preheated oven, and back them until they are lightly golden brown and just beginning to crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Take the sheets out of the oven, place on a cooling rack, and allow the crisps to finish cooking on the tray until totally cool.  Loosen them from the parchment with an offset spatula and save them for when the pasta is ready.  
  4. Peel and finely chop both the shallots as well as peeling and mincing all the garlic. Place a straight sided saute pan, or a small dutch oven on your stovetop over medium heat. You’ll need a large enough sized pan to be able to mix the entire amount of cooked pasta into the sauce inside it.  
  5. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, add your shallots and garlic, and cook until softened and fragrant. This should take about 4 to 5 minutes.  
  6. Add the tomato paste and chili flakes, stirring until the paste has fully incorporated with your shallots and garlic. Continue stirring the mixture and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan until the paste has become a very dark red color and smells intensely of tomato - at least 5 minutes.  Don’t worry if it’s starting to brown or stick a little to the bottom of the pan.  As long as it's not burning, keep going!  This is where we are building a really deep tomato flavor.  
  7. Add in the balsamic vinegar and vodka to loosen the browned tomato from the bottom of the pan, scraping as soon as it’s added.  Once the bottom of the pan is mostly clean, stir the mixture to fully incorporate everything and reduce the heat to low so the sauce is barely simmering.  
  8. Add your pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until it is 90% done.  
  9. While your pasta is cooking, slowly pour the heavy cream into your tomato sauce, stirring constantly as you do. It’s important to make sure the cream isn’t too cold, or added too quickly.  This ensures a smooth, shiny sauce rather than a broken one. Then add in ¼ cup of boiling water from your pasta pot, again stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce. 
  10. Once your pasta is 90% cooked, reserve another cup of the pasta water in a heatproof bowl or measuring cup, and drain your pasta.  Add the drained pasta to your vodka sauce. 
  11. Mix the pasta into the sauce, along with ½ cup of the reserved pasta water.  As you’re stirring, slowly add in the grated parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and you have a shiny sauce that coats and sticks to each piece of pasta.  Once the pasta has finished cooking in the sauce, if you need to, add a bit more pasta water to adjust if it’s too thick.  Add salt to taste. 
  12. Scoop the pasta into four serving bowls and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.  Then top the pasta with some crispy parmesan (you can leave it in disks or break it up a little), and finish with hand torn basil. 




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