Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

I first made this recipe for Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce a few weeks ago for my best friend’s birthday dinner. He inhaled two big bowls of it and then moved on to a Monster Cookie sundae … before revisiting the kitchen for “just one more bowl” of the creamy pasta. As you can imagine, I wasn’t far behind him in the Tour de Carbs.

You might be tempted by the smell of golden brown cubes of crispy, salty pancetta, or perhaps you’re allured by the thought of eating vodka, rather than in addition to sipping and savoring it. But my main attraction to this recipe is its simplicity. I haven’t had as much time to cook weeknight meals recently (see: 320-page book project), but this recipe has made it possible to enjoy a homemade meal on Monday evenings, knowing I also have hot lunches and dinners for the week ahead. I pair a bowl of the pasta with an arugula salad tossed in my quick-fix balsamic-garlic dressing and a few curls of Parmesan. 

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce


Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 10 min


16 ounces pasta (Recommended shapes: cavatappi, penne or rigatoni)
¼ pound pancetta (one thick slice), medium diced
1/3 cup vodka (See Kelly's Notes below)
1½ cups prepared marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Parmesan cheese, for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add the diced pancetta, sauteing it until golden brown.

Once all of the pancetta is browned, add the vodka to the pan and cook it until it reduces by half, about 3 minutes.

Add the prepared marinara sauce to the pan, then whisk in the heavy cream. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it until al dente.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce, tossing to coat.

Serve the pasta topped with Parmesan cheese.

Kelly's Notes:

If you don't have a non-stick pan, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a regular pan, then add the diced pancetta and continue the method of preparation above.

As the age-old rule stands, never cook with alcohol (or wine) that you wouldn't drink. Although it's tempting to skimp on the vodka and opt for a cheap brand, I encourage you to splurge on the higher-end varieties, as it really does impact the flavor of the sauce.

Ask the butcher at your local supermarket about purchasing a thick slice of pancetta. But if one thick slice isn't an option, you can use the pre-packaged thin slices that are widely available.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.


25 Responses to “Pasta with Pancetta and Vodka Sauce”

  1. #
    Bev Weidner — November 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm


  2. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — November 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    mmm looks easy enough to make one weeknight! :)

  3. #
    Esther @ Esther Eats — November 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    This sounds delicious! I am a sucker for a good vodka sauce. Or just vodka. HAHAHA.

    • Kelly replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

      Haha! We are twins!

  4. #
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — November 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    looks fabulous! Hope you had a great holiday!

  5. #
    icanflossu — November 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Oh my, goose and pasta? Between this and the pecan pie bars my husband will wonder where his wife went!!!

  6. #
    6 — December 1, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    This recipe just made my day. Seriously. I’m pretty sure I have everything except the pancetta at home. I definitely have the vodka. ;) I’m stopping off at the store for some pancetta and making this tonight. Dinner dilemma solved!

  7. #
    Becky - Becky Bakes — December 4, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Oh my. This looks delicious…comfort food! Can’t wait to try it!

  8. #
    Buckley — December 4, 2011 at 4:36 am

    I am going to be making this tomorrow night for one of my famous pasta parties. Can’t wait!

    • Kelly replied: — December 4th, 2011 @ 4:58 am

      I hope you enjoy this, Buckley! I know how popular your pasta parties are, so please let me know how the recipe turns out :)

  9. #
    Jaclyn — December 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    This looks so tasty. I love trying out new pasta recipes. Beautiful photos!

    • Kelly replied: — December 4th, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

      Thank you, Jaclyn!

  10. #
    Kathryn — December 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Vodka sauce is my favorite and I’ve never made it from scratch. This recipe was so quick and easy I’m def making this again! My boyfriend inhaled it!

  11. #
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — January 21, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    What are you doing to me tempting me with your pancetta? Why oh why did I decide to be a pescatarian?

  12. #
    Inese — February 4, 2014 at 5:14 am

    I have heard of a vodka salmon sauce for pasta but this also sounds interesting. I was just wondering – what does the vodka add to the sauce (besides callories)? Does ir actually add any special taste?

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — February 4th, 2014 @ 11:04 am

      Hi Inese! Vodka has a very distinctive flavor, and in this recipe in particular, it helps de-glaze the pan so that all the pieces of pancetta are released. Enjoy!


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