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Colu Henry Pasta Recipe: Smoky Garganelli alla Vodka

The author of Back Pocket Pasta dishes up an easy, delicious recipe


This pasta plate is an easy-to-make, Italian-American classic, and the recipe makes enough for the whole family. Chef and cookbook writer Colu Henry crafted the dish as part of her cookbook Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly. Her advice? This dish is best served with caesar salad, garlic bread, and Chianti. Cue the Sinatra.

Smoky Garganelli alla Vodka Recipe


  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ pound garganelli or penne
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 ounces ’nduja
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.
  • While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the ’nduja (if using) and cook, stirring until it begins to melt, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the vodka to skillet and cook for 2 minutes more to reduce by half. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the cream, and cook 1 minute more.
  • Add the pasta and grated cheese directly to the skillet and toss to coat.
  • Plate in bowls and top with the oregano and parsley. Top with additional cheese and salt and pepper, if desired.

This recipe was originally printed by Clarkson Potter in Back Pocket Pasta, and is reprinted here with permission.

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