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Just because you’re eating gluten-free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy pasta. And one of our favorite pasta dishes is Penne alla Vodka. This rich and delicious tomato based sauce is made with crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, sautéed onion, and pancetta. Then simmered with a touch of cream and of course, vodka. It’s so delicious, and if you’ve never tried it, we think you’re missing out.
The best part, this popular Italian restaurant favorite is simple to make at home. And once you do, you’ll want to make it again and again. The only thing you need to make this dish truly gluten-free is a gluten-free pasta like Schär Gluten-Free Penne.
What Are The Ingredients For Gluten Free Penne Alla Vodka?
You probably have most of the ingredients for this sauce in your pantry right now!
Here’s what you’ll need!
Schär Gluten-Free Penne: For a great gluten-free pasta Schär Penne is made in Italy and tastes like it is too. Non-GMO , preservative free and low fat, there’s no special prep required and you can cook it just like you would wheat pasta. Just follow the box directions and cook until al dente.
To find Schär Gluten-Free Penne in the grocery store, it may not be in the aisle with the wheat pastas. Instead look for it in the natural foods section along with their other gluten-free products that include breads, waffles, croissants, crackers, cookies and more. We buy them at ShopRite. Check here for a store near you.
Crushed Tomatoes (28 ounce can): Tomatoes labeled San Marzano often have the best flavor. If you only have canned whole plum tomatoes you can still use them. Just put them in the blender or the food processor, and process until smooth. If you want a little texture in your sauce process until almost smooth leaving small pieces of tomato.
Pancetta: Pancetta is an Italian cured pork belly that adds a salty meaty bite to this sauce. You can often find it in the deli department already diced which is what we want for this recipe. If you can’t find pancetta, bacon would be a great substitute as would a smoky prosciutto. You can also use ham, but stay away from sweet varieties like those that are honey-glazed.
Heavy Cream: Cream is what gives vodka sauce it’s body. If you’re looking for a dairy-free option to save on some fat, try substituting unsweetened cashew or oat milk instead. Just be aware it won’t taste exactly the same.
Grated Parmesan Cheese: This adds a salty cheesy umami flavor to the sauce and helps thicken it. Make sure to have extra for sprinkling on top before serving.
Onion: One finely chopped medium yellow onion is all you’ll need.
Garlic: Fresh chopped garlic gives this sauce a delicious flavor. We suggest 3 cloves, but you can add more if you love your garlic.
Crushed Red Pepper: This gives our sauce a little kick. If you don’t like any heat just leave it out.
Butter and Olive Oil: These fats add richness to the sauce and help us cook down our onion and garlic. You can use all butter or all olive oil as well.
Fresh Basil: Basil adds a touch of freshness that cuts through the richness of this sauce. Fresh is the only way to go.
Vodka: Use any good quality vodka that you like to drink. All you need is ¼ cup, but you can bump it up to ⅓ of a cup for a more concentrated flavor. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can eliminate the vodka altogether. The sauce will still be delicious.
How To Make Gluten Free Penne Alla Vodka
Start by preparing the pasta according to the directions on the box. Be sure to season the water with salt before you add the pasta to the boiling water. The rule is 1 tablespoon salt for every 4 quarts of pasta water.
While the pasta water is boiling, get the sauce going.
In a deep heavy-bottomed pan placed over medium-low heat, start by sautéing the pancetta and onion with olive oil until the onion is softened and translucent and the pancetta is crispy. (5 minutes)
Then add the garlic and crushed red pepper, give it a stir and let it cook with the onions until fragrant. (2 minutes)
Now, turn up to medium and add the crushed tomatoes, the vodka and the salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until you can’t smell the vodka rising from the sauce any longer. This allows all the alcohol to evaporate, leaving only flavor behind. (5 minutes)
Turn the heat down to low and add the butter and cream, stirring well and cooking for another 3 minutes. If you’re using olive oil instead of butter in this recipe, you don’t need to add more at this step.
The sauce is almost finished!
Turn the heat off and then stir in ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce to coat.
Before serving, garnish each pasta bowl with more grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Gluten Free Penne Alla Vodka Tips & Tricks
- Make sure not to add the cream when the sauce is too hot as it may cause the sauce to split or separate which can cause a grainy instead of smooth texture.
- You can make batches of the Vodka Sauce ahead of time and freeze it for when you need a quick dinner. Just defrost your sauce and cook up some pasta, toss and serve.
GET THE RECIPE!
Gluten-Free Penne Alla Vodka
- 12 oz box of Schar Gluten-Free Penne Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 oz. smoked pancetta or bacon diced
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1-28 oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream for a non-dairy version try unsweetened cashew milk
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Fresh basil for serving optional
- Making the Pasta - Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt. Cook pasta until al dente according to the directions on the box. Reserve water.
- Making the Sauce - In a deep heavy-bottomed pan placed over medium-low heat, add the pancetta and onion with olive oil. Cook until the onion is softened and translucent and the pancetta is crispy. (5-7 minutes)
- Add the garlic and crushed red pepper. give it a stir and let it cook with the onions until fragrant (2 minutes).
- Turn up the heat to medium. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, the vodka and salt + pepper. Simmer until you can’t smell the vodka evaporating from the sauce any more. (5 minutes)
- Lower the heat and add the butter and cream. Stir well and let simmer on low for another 3 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and stir in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water to the sauce and stir well. This will help the sauce stick to the pasta better.
- Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce to coat.
- To Serve - After plating, garnish each pasta dish with more grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!
Instead of pancetta, substitute bacon or a smoky prosciutto. If you don’t eat meat just omit it.
You don’t have to only stick with penne! Try Schar’s Gluten Free Rotini instead.
Cream based sauces like this will last around 5-7 days in the fridge.
This sauce freezes well too! Make extra for a quick and easy dinner.