Penne with Vodka Sauce & Capicola

Penne with Vodka Sauce & Capicola

7 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine April/May 2006

Our velvety tomato sauce is spiked with cubes of salty capicola and a few shots of vodka. Make it a Meal: Caesar salad and a glass of Pinot Noir will shine with this dish.

Ingredients 6 servings

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Original recipe yields 6 servings
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  • 12 ounces whole-wheat penne
  • 1 2-ounce piece capicola, or pancetta, finely diced (see Tip)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne until just tender, 12 minutes or according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, cook capicola (or pancetta) in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
  3. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat; add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high; add vodka and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, half-and-half, Worcestershire sauce and crushed red pepper to taste; reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta; serve topped with the sauce and sprinkled with the capicola (or pancetta), basil and pepper.
  • Tip: Capicola and pancetta can be found in the deli section of most large supermarkets. Buy one thick piece for this recipe.

Nutrition information

  • Per serving: 311 calories; 3 g fat(1 g sat); 7 g fiber; 53 g carbohydrates; 12 g protein; 29 mcg folate; 9 mg cholesterol; 8 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 451 IU vitamin A; 14 mg vitamin C; 90 mg calcium; 4 mg iron; 395 mg sodium; 514 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (23% daily value), Vitamin A (22% dv), Iron (20% dv), Magnesium (19% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 3
  • Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable

Reviews 7

August 30, 2015
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By: EatingWell User
Bland As another reviewer said, it was missing something. Won't be making it again. Too bad. Pros: Easy Cons: Rather flavorless
July 12, 2011
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By: EatingWell User
Flavorful enough for grown-ups, easy to make kid-friendly I loved the idea of adding worcestershire sauce and capicola to add a smoky flavor to this tomato sauce. To go with this theme (and make it sweeter for my kids) I used roasted canned tomatoes, added a roasted red pepper (in a jar) and substituted 1tsp smoked tabasco sauce for the crushed red peppers (my kids are wimps). Amazing flavor! I also put the sauce in the blender to make the texture kid-friendly. This is my new tomato sauce stand-by!
June 23, 2011
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By: thewickedfae
Missing something... This recipe is missing something. It was fairly bland. It needs something in the sauce and could do with more veggies, I think. I put a little Splenda in the sauce to take some of the tang out of the crushed tomatoes but it needs something more. The half and half doesn't really do what it's meant to here and the meal just tastes like you poured thickened crushed tomatoes with cooked onions and a dash of crushed red pepper over penne then sprinkled a little bit of capicola/pancetta on top for the fun of it. I used pancetta and it didn't really add much to the overall flavor as the recipe doesn't call for very much of it then asks you to drain it on paper towels which takes away most of its flavor-giving properties anyway.
July 20, 2010
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By: EatingWell User
Tried this recipe tonight.. used what I had for ingredients. The only thing I lacked was the italian meat, so I used regular turkey bacon instead, and sprinkled some italian seasonings in it. It turned out quite well, and my husband and daughter loved it. I used fat free half n half to cut calories, and since turkey bacon doesnt create much oil, I used a couple tablespoons of olive oil. And, because I cut the calories with the half n half, I topped it with a little mozzarella cheese and the bacon. I enjoyed it, and will definitely make this again. Next time though, I want to try it with the pancetta. :)
March 11, 2010
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By: EatingWell User
Not our favorite, too tangy and acidic for us. We'll stick to the traditional spaghetti sauce.
January 24, 2010
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By: WesternWind
I made the recipe for 6 and then froze half the sauce (didn't want to be tempted to eat more than the "allotment") I used the exact 6 ounces of pasta. We had more than enough for dinner with a nice salad. There were leftovers which my husband ate for lunch today. Nice recipe, but not a creamy as I thought it might be - and we could not taste even a hint of the vodka. We are very happy with Eating Well's recipes and are both learning about portions.
January 17, 2010
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By: EatingWell User
I made this for dinner last night for my husband and myself because I had some pancetta I wanted to use up and a little bit of fat free half and half. I figured it served six so we could get two dinners out of it. Wrong! There was just enough left for lunch today. I only had to change the recipe a tiny bit. When I fried up the pancetta it didn't release enough fat to cook the onion and garlic so I had to add a glug of olive oil. It was wonderful.