This penne alla vodka is tender penne pasta tossed in a rich and delicious tomato, vodka and cream sauce. Add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and you’ll have a restaurant quality meal in the comfort of your own home.
I always order penne alla vodka at my local Italian restaurant. That creamy and flavorful sauce just can’t be beat! Luckily it’s super easy to make pasta alla vodka – in 30 minutes you’ll have an amazing dinner on the table. Try this dish with some grilled chicken or grilled shrimp for added protein.
Penne alla vodka is one of those simple recipes that has minimal ingredients but is just so delicious and satisfying. My homemade version tastes just like the dish I get at our local Italian restaurant. The key to amazing pasta alla vodka is to get the best quality ingredients that you can afford.
How do you make penne alla vodka?
The first step is to put your pasta up to boil, and while the pasta is cooking it’s time to make the sauce. The vodka sauce starts with sauteed garlic, butter and tomato puree. Place those ingredients in a pan, then add in the vodka. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in heavy cream, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce. Garnish with more parmesan cheese, red chili flakes and parsley, then serve and enjoy.
Does vodka sauce have vodka in it?
Yes, vodka sauce does in fact contain vodka which is how it gets its name! The vodka adds a unique flavor to this dish, but it simmers for long enough that the alcohol boils off so there’s no danger of getting intoxicated from eating pasta.
Tips for penne alla vodka
- Make sure you let the sauce simmer for long enough so that the alcohol will cook off. If you don’t cook the sauce for long enough, you may end up with a harsh aftertaste from the alcohol.
- You can make this sauce a day before you plan to use it. Simply reheat it on the stove while your pasta cooks, then toss everything together and serve.
- I use canned San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe. They’re a type of Italian plum tomato and they have the best flavor of any type of canned tomato. If you can’t find a can of San Marzano tomatoes, use Italian style whole canned tomatoes instead. It’s definitely worth the extra money for the San Marzano variety.
- Do not use the green can of parmesan cheese for this dish. Look for a high quality grated or shaved parmesan, or buy a block of it and grate it yourself.
This dish is great as-is, but you can add other ingredients for a heartier meal, or to customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Protein: Feel free to add some cooked shrimp, ground beef, Italian sausage or grilled chicken to this dish. For a vegetarian version, you can stir in a can of cannellini beans.
- Vegetables: Amp up the flavor and nutrition with sauteed veggies such as zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms or eggplant.
- Pasta: No penne pasta on hand? This recipe will work with most types of short pasta including farfalle, rigatoni, fusilli and cavatappi.
- Cheese: If you’re a cheese lover, try adding another type of Italian cheese to the mix such as fresh mozzarella balls, provolone or fontina.
This vodka sauce is so good that sometimes I skip the penne altogether and use ravioli or tortellini instead. You could even use this sauce in a lasagna for a fun twist on an old classic.
When you’re in the mood for Italian food, definitely give this penne alla vodka a try. You’ll be surprised at how authentic (and delicious) it is!
More great pasta recipes
- Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Cheeseburger Pasta
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta
- Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Penne alla Vodka video
Penne alla Vodka
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for garnish if desired
- 28 ounce can Italian style or San Marzano whole tomatoes
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
- Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.
- Place the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the tomato puree into the pan.
- Add the vodka to the pan. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes over medium low heat.
- Stir in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese and simmer for another 5 minutes or until thickened. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with parsley, parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (optional), then serve.
This post was originally published on January 27, 2019 and was updated on January 13, 2022 with new content.