Ok, did you hear about Gigi Hadid’s spicy vodka pasta recipe and you are wondering if here in Italy it is possible to find someone who prepares it or, maybe, a restaurant that offers it to its guests. On the other hand, it is still pasta and Italians are crazy about it, right?
Sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is no.
Here in Italy, penne alla vodka is a first course that belongs to the pasta and today it is very difficult to find them on the menus of some restaurants, both for a matter of taste and for a question of identity, as I will explain below.
As you will understand from this article, we Italians have known penne alla vodka long before the recipe posted by Gigi Hadid and despite the incredible success of that recipe in the United States, here in Italy it remains a mostly ignored dish.
Penne alla Vodka, but who invented them?
No, although the Vodka has nothing to do with the Russian. Going back in time in order to find the origins of this dish, we come across several theories, but few certainties.
The certainty is that penne alla Vodka had a brief moment of glory in Italy in the 1980s.
Someone speaks of a Bolognese restaurant where the recipe would have been proposed flambéed in the 70s. Other recalled the “pasta all’infuriata” published, almost as a joke, by the Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi in his recipe book L’ Abbuffone (1974): it was a variant of penne all’arrabbiata with Vodka and the historical period, so two clues would make a proof.
Another witness moves the scenario even much further, in a New York restaurant managed by a Neapolitan chef, mentioned by a student of Columbia University.
Another theory suggests that a Vodka company hired a Roman chef to advertise in Italy.
Wherever the truth is found, it is true that this recipe was very popular in my country during the most punk years ever: easy to prepare and with very basic ingredients often available in our cupboard, it has long been proposed by candlelight at dinners between lovers and friends.
However, it has not been able to maintain its glory, at least here in Italy, because – according to Google’s Foods Trend Report – we are talking about the second most clicked-on recipe in the USA and even elected a symbol course of Word Pasta Day 2016 in Moscow!
Why do penne alla Vodka no longer convince Italians?
Hundreds of Italian latin lovers born in the 80s impressed their conquests by cooking this dish. And who knows, alcohol has not also acted as a “softener” for inhibitions: maybe, many of us are literally children of those dinners!
However, why has this culinary proposal not become part of our DNA? The reasons can be several and surely there is also the case to be considered.
Moreover, knowing our Italian tastes, I could not help but notice one detail:
Among the ingredients of penne alla Vodka we can find tomato and cream, a combination that is really difficult to appreciate in Italy because the acidity of the tomato does not mix so well with the flavor and texture of the cream, with which it binds very little. The role of Vodka, in fact, would also be an emulsifier, helpful to better aggregate everything.
Vodka is the second reason why this dish has lost the favor of the masses in Italy. An Italian course based on an ingredient that is not Italian has lost from the beginning, especially today that the attention to local and seasonal ingredients in dishes has become so obsessive.
Penne alla Vodka: viral in America, but not in Italy
A couple of years ago, it was the top model Gigi Hadid who – once again – consecrated this dish to world cuisine with her own spicy reinterpretation.
All it took was a post on Instagram illustrating her personal recipe: the result was so inviting that the video became viral and brought penne alla Vodka to the houses of the entire world. The idea was also appreciated by vegetarians who were able to add it to their menus.
I cannot tell you that today this dish has entered the Italian gastronomic panorama but, thanks to this incredible boost, surely someone has returned to talk about it, even if it remains quite untraceable on the menus of any restaurant.
Even I, so lazy in the kitchen, wanted to try it, pushed by its quick preparations, almost half an hour. And I must admit that my low expectations have been refuted: even if I continue to prefer other types of flavors that are more traditional and smell like home.