Penne with Sambuca Sauce

Who says Vodka gets to have all the fun?! This deliciously easy semi-homemade Sambuca sauce comes together quickly and tastes out of this world! It’s a unique twist on an Italian favorite that combines sweet, salty and savory in every bite. Give it a try… I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised and may even find that there’s a new favorite pasta sauce in town!

Ingredients: Feeds 4 – 6 peeps

  • 1 lb penne rigate
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/4 lb pancetta*, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch red pepper flake
  • 1/2 cup Sambuca
  • 3 cups marinara** sauce
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (room temp)
  • 4 – 6 basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain (reserve 1 cup pasta water) and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large enamel coated cast iron saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until they begin to soften. Add pancetta and cook until it begins to crisp and onions start to caramelize.
  3. Mix in the garlic and red pepper flake and remove pan from heat. Add the Sambuca and return pan to the heat. Bring it to a simmer and allow alcohol to burn off (approx. 5 – 7 minutes).
  4. Lower the heat, add the marinara sauce and bring back to a slow simmer. Add in the heavy cream and basil and mix to incorporate. Let simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the parmesan and mix well. If sauce seems thick, add reserved pasta water until desired consistency is reached, otherwise discard.
  6. Toss pasta in sauce in the saucepan and serve immediately with additional parmesan and torn basil on top.



*Sub diced ham for pancetta if you don’t have it on hand.

**My go to pre-made tomato sauce is Lidia Bastianich’s Organic Marinara.

3 thoughts on “Penne with Sambuca Sauce

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s