Lighten Up Your Dinner: Healthy Penne alla Vodka in 15 Minutes!

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

Penne alla Vodka is a delicious pasta dish pairing al dente penne pasta with a tomato and cream sauce spiked with vodka. It's rich, peppery and tomatoey with a creamy finish. But did you know that you can make a healthier version replacing the cream with a simple ingredient that is much lower in fat? This healthy penne alla vodka is the perfect weeknight dinner and takes 15 minutes to make and is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

I always seem to have some leftover ricotta in my fridge and that's when I make this healthy version of Penne alla Vodka. Penne alla Vodka is not a traditional Italian dish, it's a more recent invention from the 80s and 90s of Italian American cuisine. Nevertheless it is absolutely delicious and a fantastic vegetarian pasta dish that is not short on flavour in any way. I like adding extra spice to mine via chilli flakes and oil. It is simple, requires just a few ingredients but you feel like a bit of a magician when it's made.

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

It makes the perfect weeknight dinner and I've made this more times this past week that I care to admit ;)! It's great for those nights when you need to cook something but you're busy. Sometimes I add some sort of protein like crab or seafood but this is also just delicious the way that it is. I did check with Monica (my Italian oracle) whether it was ok to add something to it because when you alter a recipe then people can get upset but she reminded me that it was a more modern Italian American dish and Americans, like Australians, don't mind a modification to dishes.

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

I had to laugh because recently I put up a recipe for whipped brie and it went a bit viral on Instagram. What usually happens when something goes viral is that the first few days are lovely because the recipe goes out to all of your followers and I've always said my readers are the best people in the world. But then after a few days it goes out to the wider world - when the Gibanica went viral I had a lot of Americans asking me why I was using tissue paper in my recipes as I suppose they hadn't seen filo sheets before. But this time the Americans were super lovely about it. I also learnt that the there's a similar dish called Obatzda in Bavaria and Austria where brie is whipped with butter but they also add beer. Anyway it was lovely and people were genuinely curious to try the recipe and just so nice about it and I got a nice boost of new followers.

But then I didn't count on the ire of the French. They considered whipped brie sacrilege and threatened murder (how can they even cope with baked brie then). They say that there's no such thing as a free lunch and that's true, there's no such thing as popularity without someone taking exception. Just don't tell them that Obatzda exists too! ;)

So tell me Dear Reader, do you get upset when recipes are changed from the traditional version? Are you still trying to eat healthily after Christmas?

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes concurrently

Serves: 2

  • 200g/7ozs dried penne pasta
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon/15g/0.oz butter
  • 1 large golden eschallot, peeled and finely diced (can sub half a white or brown onion)
  • 300g/10.6ozs arrabbiata sauce (I puree it to make it smoother)
  • 90g/3ozs tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons vodka
  • 80g/2.8ozs ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar

Step 1 - Place a pot of water on boil and add the salt. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente (around 8-9 minutes or so, check on the packet directions). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta in a colander.

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

Step 2 - While the pasta is cooking, I make the sauce. Place a large frying pan onto medium heat and add the butter. Saute the diced eschallot until translucent and sweet smelling. Then add the pasta sauce, tomato paste and vodka. Heat through until simmering and then add the ricotta cheese, chilli flakes and sugar to taste. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or so while you drain the pasta. Add the pasta into the saucepan and stir to coat along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Simmer for a minute or two adding more pasta water if needed. Place the pasta and sauce on a platter or individual plates and serve immediately.

Penne alla Vodka Healthy

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