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We all have favorites foods and recipes we love to prepare, but hesitate because of all the fat and calories! Maybe you have recipes passed down through the generations by family members that are delicious but use shortening, cream and other typically unhealthy ingredients. You feel guilty just reading the recipe! Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make over those unhealthy recipes and convert them into healthy ones? Fortunately, there are lots of healthy subsitutions you can make to your recipes to make them healthier, not only on the waistline, but for the heart and overall well-being of your body. This is one of my favorite recipes–Vodka Rigatoni. BUT, with the heavy cream and fat-laden bacon added to the mix, one serving has nearly 1,000 calories! Changing recipes and making them a healthier way is pretty much what I do to almost every recipe I make at my house, but this one had such expreme results, I just had to share! Simple changed with everyday ingredients makes this recipe packed with just as much flavor and over 70% calorie savings!

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Penne With Red Vodka Sauce

INGREDIENTS (Original Recipe)–> (Healthified Version)
2 pounds rigatoni pasta–> 12 ounces whole-wheat penne
1 ounce bacon bits–> 2-ounce piece pancetta, finely diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced–> 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 ounces vodka–> 1/2 cup vodka
28-ounce can tomato sauce–> 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 quart heavy cream–> 1/4 cup fat free half-and-half*
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil–> 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil- OMIT–> Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon salt- OMIT –> 1 Red Bell Pepper, roasted, skin removed**
1 ounce grated romano cheese- OMIT***

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne until just tender, 12 minutes or according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook pancetta in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat; add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high; add vodka and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, half-and-half, Worcestershire sauce and crushed red pepper to taste; reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta; serve topped with the sauce and sprinkled with the pancetta, basil and pepper.


*If available, try to use the FAT-FREE half and half, reducing even more fat and calories, but still gives enough stability and mouth feel to the dish, like the heavy cream :)

**Put the peppers directly on the oven rack and roast until blistered and charred. When the peppers are charred, remove them from the fire and place in a food grade plastic bag. Allow some air to remain in the bag and loosely tie. The steam that will form in the bag will help to remove the skin. Let cool for about fifteen minutes or until you can easily handle the peppers. Remove from bag and use your hands to peel off the skins. Cut off the stem end and slice the peppers open. Remove the core and seeds and cut into strips.

***If you choose to leave the Romano cheese in the dish, add 19 calories and 2g fat per serving to your meal.

Original Recipe Nutrition Information: Calories 998; Total Fat 44.2g; Saturated Fat 22.2g; Cholesterol 246mg; Sodium 1987mg; Total Carbohydrate 119.9g; Dietary Fiber 7.0g; Protein 28.1g

Healthified Nutrition Information: 311 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 9 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrates; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber; 264 mg sodium


  1. This sounds wonderful! Thanks for the recipe! Super cute site!

  2. Penne alla Vodka is delicious.

  3. penny lane designs says:

    Found your blog through Mindy- love all your ideas! I will be trying some of these recipes very soon! :)

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