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Penne Alla Vodka

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close up overhead shot of a skillet of penne alla vodka topped with parmesan and garnished with basil
This penne alla vodka boasts an incredibly flavorful sauce yet is simple enough for a busy weeknight.
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Table of Contents
  1. Penne Alla Vodka Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
  3. How to Serve
  4. Storage
  5. More Recipes You’ll Love
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

Penne alla vodka is an iconic Italian dish that is surprisingly easy to make. The creamy vodka-infused sauce and tender penne pasta are topped with tangy parmesan cheese for a delicious pasta dish that opens up plenty of opportunities for customization.

Pasta is a great go-to meal for busy nights. For more pasta recipes, our bruschetta chicken pasta and carbonara pasta are two tasty choices.

close up overhead shot of a plate of penne alla vodka topped with parmesan and garnished with basil

Penne Alla Vodka Ingredients

penne alla vodka raw ingredients that are labeled

You’ll need:

  • 16-ounce box penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, fine diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup of vodka
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1¾ cups fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided

PRO TIP:

Try to use fresh herbs and garlic if you can, as it adds so much extra flavor to the homemade vodka sauce.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

SPICE: If you prefer a little extra heat in your penne alla vodka, you can increase the amount of red pepper flakes used in the recipe according to your tastes.

PASTA: This penne alla vodka sauce recipe is made with penne pasta; however, if you are in a pinch, any short pasta including rigatoni, ziti, mostaccioli, or fusilli will work in this recipe. You will just want to make sure to cook your pasta according to the package directions.

CHEESE: This recipe calls for freshly grated parmesan cheese, but you can use pecorino-romano or a tangy Parmigiano Reggiano, and that would taste good also.

TOMATOES: I like the combination of the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce in this recipe, but if you prefer a very smooth tomato sauce, you can substitute the 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes for tomato sauce or tomato puree in the recipe. You can also run the sauce through your blender, immersion blender, or food processor to make it smooth.

MEAT: You could add a bit of protein to this penne vodka dish with grilled chicken, cooked bacon, pancetta, or Italian sausage.

How to Make This Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

PRO TIP:

This sauce can be made a day ahead and reheated on the stove while you are cooking the pasta.

STEP ONE: In a large pot of water, cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside when done.

STEP TWO: In a large, deep-sided skillet, on medium heat, saute the diced onions, minced garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes in the olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions are soft.

penne alla vodka process shot of ingredients in a skillet

STEP THREE: Once the onions are soft, add the chicken stock and vodka, allowing it to cook for another 30 seconds, to cook off some of the alcohol, and to deglaze the pan.

penne alla vodka process shot of chicken stock and vodka added to the skillet

STEP FOUR: Turn to heat down to medium-low heat and add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Allow the sauce to simmer for 20 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.

PRO TIP:

Be sure to let it simmer long enough to cook off most of the alcohol, or you’ll taste the alcohol, and it will really overpower the dish.

penne alla vodka process shot of tomatoes and chopped basil added to the skillet

STEP FIVE: Turn the heat to low heat and add the heavy cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

penne alla vodka process shot of ingredients combined in the skillet

STEP SIX: Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce. Stir to coat and allow to simmer for a final 5 minutes.

penne alla vodka process shot of pasta added to the skillet of sauce

STEP SEVEN: Remove from the heat. Your cream sauce will be thin at first, so you will want to allow your penne alla vodka to rest for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken. It will thicken as it cools.

STEP EIGHT: You can transfer your penne alla vodka to a large serving dish, or leave it in the skillet, and garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil and ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese. Serve pasta warm.

How to Serve

You can serve this creamy pasta alongside grilled chicken breast, garlic bread, and a Caesar salad for dinner. This is an easy dish to whip up when you have a busy night, and you need to get food on the table fast.

Storage

IN THE FRIDGE: Store leftovers in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

IN THE FREEZER: Leftovers of this pasta can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. 

close up shot of a spoonful of penne alla vodka topped with parmesan and garnished with basil

This creamy sauce has an amazing, unique flavor thanks to the addition of vodka to the rich tomato sauce. It’s hard to believe that the sauce doesn’t need to spend hours simmering away to achieve this delicious dish.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Does this pasta have an alcoholic taste?

Since a lot of the alcohol cooks off, there is no lingering alcohol taste, but the vodka does help to intensify the rich tomato flavor.

Can I freeze the leftovers of this pasta?

This easy pasta can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.

Do I have to use penne in this recipe?

You can use any bite-size pasta you’d like in this recipe. Rigatoni or fusilli are two other popular options.

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close up overhead shot of a skillet of penne alla vodka topped with parmesan and garnished with basil

Penne Alla Vodka

5 from 1 vote
This penne alla vodka boasts an incredibly flavorful sauce yet is simple enough for a busy weeknight.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 16 ounces penne pasta cooked al dente according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion fine diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil divided
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • cups fresh grated parmesan cheese divided

Instructions
 

  • In a large stockpot, cook your penne pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside when done.
  • In a large, deep-sided skillet, on medium heat, saute the diced onions, minced garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes in the olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions are soft.
  • Once the onions are soft, add the chicken stock and vodka, allowing it to cook for another 30 seconds, to cook off some of the alcohol, and to deglaze the pan.
  • Turn to heat down to medium-low add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil. Allow the sauce to simmer for 20 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
  • Turn the heat to low and add the heavy cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce. Stir to coat and allow to simmer for a final 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Your sauce will be thin at first, so you will want to allow your penne alla vodka to rest for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken. It will thicken as it cools.
  • You can transfer your penne alla vodka to a large serving dish, or leave it in the skillet, and garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil and ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Notes

PRO TIP: Try to use fresh herbs and garlic if you can, as it adds so much extra flavor to the homemade vodka sauce.
 
PRO TIP: This sauce can be made a day ahead and reheated on the stove while you are cooking the pasta.
 
PRO TIP: Be sure to let it simmer long enough to cook off most of the alcohol, or you’ll taste the alcohol, and it will really overpower the dish.

Nutrition

Calories: 639kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 1151mg | Potassium: 720mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1564IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 360mg | Iron: 3mg
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