5 from 10 votes
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Penne Alla Vodka with Homemade Vodka Sauce

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Penne Alla vodka is an incredible pasta dinner that takes minimal effort to make. Penne pasta that is paired with Vodka, garlic, onion, heavy cream, butter, and more seasonings. This is a simple no fuss tomato based Vodka sauce.

Penne pasta with vodka sauce topped with grated cheese next to tomatoes.

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I am a sucker for pasta, and this vodka sauce is one that I can’t get away from. It is a simple recipe you can throw together for a lunch or dinner any night of the week.

If you are a lover of carb loaded pasta, I have a few more comfort food recipes for you to try out. Give this baked ziti with alfredo sauce, deviled egg pasta salad, or chicken Cordon Bleu pasta.

Closeup of penne pasta with vodka sauce topped with grated cheese.

What is Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka is a very popular Italian recipe that is served at many restaurants around the globe. This is a tomato based sauce that is ultra flavorful. You will find it is made with butter, vodka, and crushed tomatoes with a mix of spices. Serve with penne pasta for a sweet, tangy, and savory pasta dish.

This penne pasta recipe is great paired with freshly grated parmesan and some fresh chopped parsley.

This Penne Alla Vodka Is…

Here are a few reasons to why I love this easy pasta dish, and you might too.

  • A meatless dinner that literally uses simple everyday ingredients. You might have all the ingredients already on hand.
  • The vodka paired with the heavy cream next to the tomato base offers a sweet and tangy flavor to the pasta sauce.
  • Serve with any of your favorite pasta lover sides.
  • Family friendly dinner that will be impressed with the flavor as it is restaurant quality!

Key Ingredients For Penne Alla Vodka

  • Pasta – So I used dry penne pasta for this pasta dish. Now you can use any type of pasta as you would like. Just cook the pasta as directed on the box. If you are gluten free go right ahead and reach for a gluten free pasta or even a protein pasta.
  • Butter – Real butter is a must for this vodka sauce. Feel free to use salted butter or unsalted butter for this recipe.
  • Oil – Olive oil or even avocado oil will work great for whipping up this dish. Now you will find both of these oils will partly flavor the sauce.
  • Garlic – Freshly minced garlic is going to enhance the flavor. You can also use the garlic that is in the jar or a garlic puree if you have that on hand.
  • Vodka – You will use vodka for this recipe. I reached for Smirnoff plain, not flavored.
  • Tomatoes – Reach for canned crushed tomatoes. Now, you are going to find different brands will offer different flavors. So reach for a quality tomato.
  • Heavy Cream – Heavy whipping cream is going to elevate the pasta sauce so much. You are going to get a super creamy and rich flavor to the sauce.
Penne Alla Vodka ingredients including onion, garlic, and noodles.

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

How To Make

Collage of adding penne alla vodka ingredients to a skillet.
  1. Cook your pasta as directed on the box. Drain, and don’t rinse pasta. Then in a skillet, add butter, oil, until melted. Then add in the onions garlic, and cook till translucent. (Photo 1)
  2. Next, add in the vodka and cook down to reduce by half on simmer. (Photo 2)
  3. Toss in the tomatoes, heavy cream, and seasoning. Simmer to allow the flavors to marinate. (Photos 3,4 & 5)
  4. When the sauce is nice and thick, stir in the cooked pasta and top with parmesan cheese, chili flakes, etc. (Photos 6,7 & 8)
Collage of making vodka sauce and adding noodles.

Top Tips

Make sure to use quality ingredients as this recipe is about the freshness of the ingredients and the flavor it produces.

Tomatoes are of course acidic, so make sure to not overcook the sauce as it can begin to change up the flavor of the tomatoes.

Adjust your seasonings to fit your preference of flavor. If you want a more rich flavor add a bit more Italian seasoning or salt to enhance.

Granulated sugar is going to help balance the acidic component of the tomato. It can help reduce the tang or sour component. Do a little at a time.

You can use any type of pasta you would like. Just know that depending on the pasta, it does alter the flavor of the dish. Just cook whatever pasta you enjoy.

Make sure to use heavy cream and not milk. If you use milk it will really create a thin sauce, where heavy cream creates tons of flavor but also thickens the sauce nicely.

This pasta dish is best served fresh and warm, it will have the best flavor and even the best texture. But it can be refrigerated later.

Penne pasta with vodka sauce on a plate and in a skillet.

Storing Tips

Refrigerator

Go right ahead and store any of the pasta and sauce in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Since there is no meat in the sauce, it last a bit longer. But it is best served freshly made.

Freezing

Due to the heavy cream, you are going to find thawing once frozen is going to separate as it thaws. I do not recommend freezing the dish at all.

Reheating

To reheat, you can place the pasta and sauce in a skillet on the stove and heat on low. Cook for a few minutes to warm it up. Or you can heat it up in the microwave for a minute or so until fully warmed through.

What to serve or eat with Vodka Alla Sauce

This pasta dish is a meal in one. But you can serve it up with more like my easy garlic bread, green crisp salad, etc.

Or you might find that some broccoli or asparagus on the side will help lighten up the dish and make it less heavy.

Overhead shot of penne pasta with vodka sauce topped with grated cheese.

Recipe FAQs

What kind of vodka should I use?

Quality plain vodka is what you will use for this pasta sauce. Smirnoff is what I reached for, but just make sure it is quality in terms of flavor as it is a big flavor in the sauce.

Can I make the sauce ahead of time?

If you want to make the sauce in advance, go right ahead. Whip it up and then reheat on low until it is nice and creamy. Then once you are ready toss in the cooked pasta.

What cheese can you use for this vodka sauce?

Parmesan cheese is going to really pair well with the sauce. You will find parmesan has a tart and savory flavor and it compliments the tangy and savory components of the sauce.

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Penne pasta with vodka sauce topped with parmesan cheese and chili flakes on a blue plate.
5 from 10 votes

Penne Alla Vodka


Author: Kim Schob
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Penne Alla Vodka is a delicious tomato based sauce that is made with crushed tomatoes, vodka, and heavy cream. Pair with penne pasta for a meatless pasta recipe for the whole family to devour.

Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ cups (828 ml) Dry Penne Noodles
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 Small Onion minced
  • cup (78 6/7 ml) Vodka Smirnoff
  • 28 oz (793 ⅘ g) can Crushed Tomatoes
  • cup (157 ¾ ml) Heavy Whipping Cream 35%
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

Instructions

  • Begin by cooking the pasta according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta but avoid rinsing it.
  • Next, heat a large skillet or stockpot over medium heat and add butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted and hot, add garlic and onion and cook until the onion becomes translucent, which should take about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the vodka to the skillet and simmer it until it’s reduced by half, which should take approximately 4 minutes.
  • Now, add the crushed tomatoes, heavy whipping cream, and Italian seasoning to the stockpot. Simmer the mixture for 10-12 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon while cooking.
  • Once the sauce appears thick and smooth, stir in the penne noodles. Finally, when you’re ready to serve, garnish with optional Parmesan cheese and red chile flakes.

Notes

  • Pasta – Cook the pasta as directed on the back of the package. You will want to cook the pasta to al dente. 
  • Tomatoes – Quality tomatoes is key, as some canned tomatoes can offer a bitter flavor. Adding a little granulated sugar can help sweeten but balance out the acidic component. 
  • Vodka – Quality vodka is key as well, and you want to make sure it is not flavored. 
  • Storing – This pasta sauce will store for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Then just warm it up in microwave or on low in a skillet on the stovetop. 
  • Meat – Feel free to top the pasta with diced chicken, ground beef, or even Italian sausage. 

Nutrition Information

Calories: 357kcal (18%) Carbohydrates: 47g (16%) Protein: 9g (18%) Fat: 13g (20%) Saturated Fat: 6g (38%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0.1g Cholesterol: 26mg (9%) Sodium: 152mg (7%) Potassium: 452mg (13%) Fiber: 4g (17%) Sugar: 7g (8%) Vitamin A: 560IU (11%) Vitamin C: 11mg (13%) Vitamin D: 0.3µg (2%) Calcium: 73mg (7%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

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10 Comments

  1. I made this penne for dinner last night and my family loved it! The sauce was out of this world delicious!

  2. 5 stars
    So delicious! That vodka sauce is so tasty and creamy too! Have added this to my weekly rotation, thanks for sharing the recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    I often order penne alla vodka when I am dining out. This was the first time I made it and it rivaled anything I’ve gotten at a restaurant. Certainly plan to make again soon – thanks for the detailed instructions.

  4. 5 stars
    This penne alla vodka looks absolutely divine! d. I love that you’ve shared variations, allowing readers to customize the recipe. Thank you for sharing!

  5. 5 stars
    The combination of rich vodka-infused sauce and perfectly cooked penne creates a mouthwatering and satisfying dish.

  6. 5 stars
    This homemade vodka sauce sounds marvelous! the combination with the penne is so comforting and hearty.

  7. 5 stars
    When I was working in a restaurant, this was the most popular dish and the one I always requested as my shift meal. I haven’t had it in forever, but this post has me drooling!

  8. 5 stars
    This Penne Alla Vodka with Homemade Vodka Sauce recipe is nothing short of heavenly! The rich, velvety sauce perfectly coats the al dente penne, creating a truly decadent and unforgettable meal.

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