Growing up, my family always ordered from the same pizza place. And for a while, we always ordered the same thing: one plain pizza, or one half plain-half black olive pizza. And then, on some glorious day that I do not remember, we threw caution to the wind and ordered penne a la vodka slices alongside the plain. Or maybe, one day we threw caution to the wind and excitedly tried a slice of penne a la vodka while sitting in the plastic booths in the pizza parlor. Like I said, I don’t remember. But the bottom line is, penne a la vodka pizza became a part of my childhood. I usually don’t order it now because honestly I don’t enjoy it as much as a good slice of plain, or plain with pepperoni and mushrooms, but it still has a place in my pie-sized heart.
The other day while I was working, I was ruminating about how much I love pizza. Truth be told I spend a lot of time thinking about ‘za; if it’s any indication, my phone case is pepperoni-patterned. On a piece of scrap paper, I feverishly wrote a list of all the types of pizza that I could feasibly make myself. Hopefully over the next few months, I’ll be able to share some of the better concepts with you (I already crossed “breakfast pizza” off of the list- I couldn’t get past the notion of eating scrambled eggs over pizza dough).
Though I try to cook from scratch as often as possible, I wanted to make this recipe busy-person friendly, so I used store bought dough and vodka sauce. It took me about 2 hours to make, but it’ll probably take you about 30 minutes since you won’t be taking step by step photos or stopping to eat the bacon (jk, yes you will). I didn’t use precise measurements when making this, so feel free to be a daredevil and eyeball it.
1 bag store bought pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 1/2 cups vodka sauce
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded (I always use part skim unless it’s fresh mozzarella)
7-8 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
About 1/4 lb. cooked penne (al dente)
3 strips cooked bacon, cut into small pieces (I prefer it crispy, so it stands out against the pasta and dough)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, or to the suggested cooking heat on the dough package.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimless cookie sheet, and lightly dust with flour. Roll out dough into a 12 inch circle/square/oval/you did your best. Pour 1/4 cup of vodka sauce on the dough, leaving a one inch margin of blank crust. Set aside.
Mix the remaining sauce with the pasta. Stir in the bacon bits. Salt to taste. Pour this mixture over the crust, leaving the one inch margin in tact. Lightly season the untouched crust with salt and garlic powder. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pasta, then follow with the parmesan. If some parmesan gets on the crust, no worries; parmesan crusts are delicious. I learned that from Domino’s.
Place the whole basil leaves on top of the cheese in desired arrangement. Some people prefer to add the basil once the pizza is cooked, so go ahead and do that if you’d like.
Bake the pizza according to the dough package instructions. Using the Trader Joe’s dough, I cooked mine for about 10-12 minutes even though the package said 6-8 minutes. Everyone’s oven is a little different, so take it out once the cheese is melted and the crust is golden and pops back if you touch it.
Once the pizza is out of the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes before digging in.