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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