Let’s get one things straight here: we’re fairly certain penne alla vodka is not an authentically Italian dish. Although there are several different stories about the dish’s origin, at least one of which has it being birthed in Bologna, we’re entitled to agree with the author of this article, who notes rightly that “neither cream nor vodka is a traditional northern Italian ingredient.” Since penne alla vodka consists of tomatoes, vodka, heavy cream and, usually, some sort of meat (most often pancetta), we’re fairly certain it’s an Italian American rather than Italian Italian invention. But hey! Just because something isn’t completely authentic, it can still be tasty, right? Right (see also: Peking ravioli). And, my goodness, is penne alla vodka tasty. It’s creamy and rich and the alcohol enriches the flavors rather than adding too much of a bite. We’re sure it’s smothering our arteries every time we eat it, but it’s just the thing for an occasional treat. For some mysterious reason, penne alla vodka is actually fairly difficult to find in local restaurants that are not chains. But! It is ridiculously simple to make at home (heat up some canned tomatoes (as always, we recommend Muir Glen), add a good splash of vodka and cook it off, and then thicken with heavy cream). If you’re truly bound and determined to have someone make it for you, here are a few places to check out.
•Sometimes, it’s all about quantity. Sure, Vinny T’s of Boston is not a destination for fine dining at its peak, but one of their plates of pasta can feed you for a damn week, which is pretty great. Their penne alla vodka comes loaded with fennel sausage and basil and topped with asagio cheese. Also, you get that yummy roasted garlic.
•We actually quite like Mangia for being a very reasonably-priced oasis in Brookline Village. The penne alla vodka is warm and filling and under $7. What more could you want?