rao’s penne vodka and cookbook giveaway

I must ask your patience, I dropped my camera, while grabbing it with slippery fingers and my wonderful Macro lens that allows me to take such close up and personal photos of my food BROKE! I had to send it off for repair and won’t have it back for 2 weeks!! Boo Hoo. Hence the pics on this recipe won’t be up to my standard. But stick with me…the recipe is still delicious even if the pics aren’t making you salivate, as usual.

How long has it been since you were at a concert? Well, for me it had been a long time. Seriously, I’m talking Elton John or Billy Joel in the 80s or maybe Hootie and the Blowfish and Melissa Ethridge in Atlanta in the late 90s. Really. So to be present at an intimate (just a few hundred invited guests) kickoff to Caesar’s Entertainment Total Rewards concert with Mariah Carey, (that girl can sang!), and P. Diddy, (whose picture should be alongside the definition of the word “swagger”), this past week, had the odd effect of making me simultaneously feel ancient and well, young and invigorated at the same time. I put my hands up in the air and rocked with the rhythm of the music, even as the bass coming off the pillars of speakers made my chest ache. Doug (isn’t he cute?) and I snapped this photo (above) in the Total Rewards photo booth in between acts and satellite streams of other Total Rewards concerts across the country. The glitz and the glam and the great photos of all the Caesars resorts and restaurants made me want to go to Vegas immediately. I haven’t been there in a while either and boy is it a different place than the one I remember!

While sampling great finger food from Great Perfomances, (the caterer for the event at beautiful Gotham Hall), such as mini melt-in-you-mouth crab cakes, juicy sliders, mushroom and truffle tiny cannoli’s, seared scallops on a bed of something fried that I can’t identify at this time, all washed down with anything you want from an open bar, which of course featured Ciroc, P. Diddy’s vodka brand, we also signed up for Total Rewards and this cool game they are sponsoring online in which you can win fantasy vacations and prizes at Ceasars Entertainment resorts and properties. One grand prize involves a private jet and flying in a private jet to an exotic locale is one of my personal “bucket list” fantasies. So, signing up and playing with that as a carrot on a stick was a no-brainer for me. As an official “influencer” in this campaign (I’m so honored to be chosen as an influential influencer by Total Rewards!) I invite you to get your own Total Rewards ID and start playing this game too so you can win things and get points you can redeem at all sorts of good places that Total Rewards has ties too. TR gave me a special code to share with you all that you can use for extra entries in the game, which will improve the odds that you will be enjoying some fantasy level prizes and destinations in your future!! Here it is: PW7D66. I hope you win!! 

Another lovely treat I got from Total Rewards was a gorgeous, coffee table quality cookbook called Seven Stars, Recipes from World Class Casinos. It’s filled with delicious food and full-page photos of finished and beautifully plated dishes from Ceasars Resort restaurants. The recipes are very accessible and I’m excited to try a few of them here over the next few months and share them with you. And I also want to share this book with you too. I’ll be giving away a copy of this stunning book everytime I post a recipe from it, starting now. I have 6 to give! All you have to do is leave a comment after the post and answer this question: Do you have a fantasy “bucket list” trip you’d like to take or have taken? Where? Who would you go with, if you could go with anyone!

This post is already long so I’m going to cut to the chase and get to the recipe! Penne Alla Vodka is one of my daughter, Lily’s, all-time favorite pasta dishes and when I saw this recipe in Seven Stars, I knew this was the one I wanted to start this series with. It’s from Chef De Cuisine Carla Pellegrino from Roa’s at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas (the original Rao’s is in Harlem). There are many Vodka Sauces in jars in the grocery store, usually with preservatives, additives, and that bottled sauce taste that makes the often hefty price-tag not worth it. This recipe is quick and easy enough to make from scratch and you probably have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry and fridge, (except maybe the pancetta, but you could substitute regular old ham in a pinch). Double the recipe and you can freeze some in 8 oz. containers for future great meals. I am even going to have some, albeit with gluten-free pasta from BioNaturae that tastes like the real thing! Enjoy…and don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win the book….and go to this Total Rewards link to sign up and plot your fantasy escape!!

Pennette Alla Vodka
Adapted from RAO’s at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Chef de Cuisine Carla Pellegrino

Serves 8


4 cups half and half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
8 oz pancetta, finely diced
5-6 cups canned crushed tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes, blended to puree
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
3 cups vodka
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs good quality penne pasta (i.e. De Cecco)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggianoto cheese to finish.


1. In a medium saucepan, bring the half and half to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes or more. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat until the butter foams. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until lightly golden. Stir in the pancetta, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sitr in the tomato sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the parsley and simmer 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the reduced cream. Remove pan from heat and add vodka, mixing well. Return to medium-low heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm until pasta is ready. (Can be made ahead and stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

4. Add the penne to a large pot of well-salted boiling water; stir well, reduce the heat to medium, partially over the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 11 minutes (or according to box instructions), drain. Immediately add pasta to warmed sauce in large skillet or pot. Simmer for 2 minutes, allowing the pasta to absorb some of the sauce. Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano-Reggianoto. (Optional)


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14 responses to “rao’s penne vodka and cookbook giveaway”

  1. This recipe looks deee-vine! And I’m so jealous about the Mariah Carey/P.Diddy concert!

    My bucket list trip would be to a small, intimate beach town. I’d go there with my husband, and we’d stay in a private little beach bungalow right on the beach, but close enough to the town (small, with local, open-air restaurants that feature fresh, local foods). I don’t know where this place is…but I know it exists somewhere, and I want to go!

    Enjoying your blog so very much! Thanks!

  2. Brenda Varner Judin says:

    That’s three questions. However, I want to go to Italy and visit my friend Freddie Blue-Eyes in a beautiful villa that he now lives in year round. Lots of friends come and go in a revolving party. Great meals are cooked and shared. Lots of really good wine is drunk as is the air with laughter. The perfect house party that takes lovely little side trips to restaurants, museums, nightclubs and beaches. Books and drinks under an umbrella by the pool. Remy Stingers and cool breezes at night. Paradise.

  3. Laurie says:

    I love a good vodka sauce too. Will try this weekend with my favorite whole wheat pasta.
    I’m dying to go to France. It’s actually on my 2012 “to-do” list. Don’t know if I’ll get there or not, but I still have 9 more months to pull it off! I want to sit at a Parisian bistro, drink wine, eat little plates of heaven and watch the beautiful people go by.
    Hope you and yours are well.

  4. Vivian D says:

    Hi Rachel, sounds like you are living well and having fun. I’m so glad. My bucket list includes an extended trip to Bordeau, with Bob, of course. I’d like to stay at Chateaus and taste the best of the best. If I could bathe in wine I would- but it has to be red. So, my bucket wish will leave me sloppy and red, but happy and fatter:)

  5. Anna says:

    I’m torn between wanting to go to George Clooney’s villa, with him of course and wanting to go to Richard Branson’s Island, Necker, I have a short list of who I’d like to be stranded on Necker with … I’ll keep dreaming… such a tough decision

  6. Sharon says:

    You guys – where are the weird funny ugly faces that Lily and her friends make in photo booths? You guys are amateurs. Looks like you had a great time. Hey, the son of a gal who’s co-member of a couple of women’s activities I participate in competed on “The Next Food Network Star” and competed in Chopped Champions – his name is Justin Balmes and his episode airs in April. He was picked up by an agency after the initial competition and subsequently was voted one of Atlanta’s Hottest Chefs. He teaches at the Culinary Institute in Atlanta now. Small world?

  7. Teslaca says:

    I’d love to take an extended driving tour through western Europe with my sister. I’ve been many times and she’s never been, but wants to go and I know we’d have a great time together. I’d also love to go to Ireland and Indonesia.

  8. Meg S says:

    I would love to travel to Prague with my boyfriend. One day!

  9. Joan says:

    My bucket list travel would be to visit all the states in the US. I’ve been to a little less than half so far. I’d go with my family.
    The recipe sounds amazing.

    The last concert I went to was Neil Diamond. I took my hubby for his birthday about 10 years ago. I think.

  10. Anna says:

    I do not know if this giveaway is over but I would love to go to Vienna!! with my husband and then from there hit all the capitals of europe!

  11. Debra Kerns says:

    My fantasy trip would be to travel through Europe with my husband, taking our time to see the sites, meet local people and eat the local cuisine. This would absolutely include time in Frutigen, Switzerland…the town which bears my family name.

  12. Joan says:

    My bucket list would be to visit all of the national parks in the contintental USA and Hawaii and Alaska.

    I would take a few special friends with me in a nice-size vehicle, like a suburban, so we could see the sights in luxury.

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