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 Italian meatballs, grilled chicken tenders or grilled shrimp skewers for added protein.

A bowl of penne alla vodka pasta topped with parmesan cheese, parsley and red pepper flakes.

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. This is a dinner time staple at my house along with other kid friendly classics such as chicken broccoli Alfredo.

Penne Alla Vodka Ingredients

To make this recipe, you will need penne pasta, butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, vodka, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper and parsley.

How Do You Make Penne Alla Vodka?

The first step is to put your pasta up to boil in a large pot, and while the pasta is cooking it’s time to make the sauce. The vodka sauce starts with sautéed 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 al dente pasta with the sauce. Garnish with more parmesan cheese, red chili flakes and parsley, then serve and enjoy.

Tomato puree, butter and garlic in a skillet.

Tips For The Perfect Dish

  • 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.
  • Leftovers will stay fresh in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can reheat your pasta in the microwave, or on the stove over low heat.
  • 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.
  • The parsley adds a hint of fresh flavor and color to the dish. Fresh basil is also a great choice.

Quick Tip

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.

Creamy tomato sauce with parmesan cheese in it.

Recipe FAQs

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.

What type of sauce is penne good for?

The ridges on penne pasta help sauce to cling to it. Penne is best when paired with thick and hearty sauces such as vodka sauce, marinara sauce or a bolognese style sauce. Alfredo sauce is also a good choice.

FOLLLOW ME

Penne pasta in a creamy tomato vodka sauce.

Flavor Variations

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 garlic butter shrimp, ground beef, pancetta, Italian sausage, bacon, prosciutto or grilled chicken breast to this dish. For a vegetarian version, you can stir in a can of cannellini beans.
  • Vegetables: Amp up the flavor and nutrition with veggies such as onions cooked in a little olive oil, grilled zucchini, bell peppers, roasted mushrooms or grilled 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.
A skillet of penne alla vodka topped with shredded parmesan cheese.

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.

A bowl of penne alla vodka with a fork in it.

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

Penne Alla Vodka video

Quick Tip

Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 135 votes

Penne alla Vodka

AuthorSara Welch
A bowl of penne alla vodka pasta topped with parmesan cheese, parsley and red pepper flakes.
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.
Time
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Do not use the green can of shelf stable parmesan cheese in this recipe! Fresh cheese is best.

Nutrition

Calories: 521kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 433mg | Potassium: 462mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 965IU | Vitamin C: 12.9mg | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 2.4mg

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Followed the recipe, did not alter at all. Will absolutely make again!!! Thank you for sharing.

  2. 5 stars
    This is amazing. I loved a similar dish at Noodles & Company but this is way better. Very easy to make as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe..

  3. 5 stars
    I have used this recipe so many times. We love it. Easy and always a good choice when we cannot think of something for dinner.

  4. 5 stars
    Have wanted to try a vodka sauce for a while. I made this with fresh San marzano tomatoes from the garden. EXCELLENT!! Definitely a ‘do not lose’ recipe. Plate licking good!! (And I’m not one to leave reviews, but this deserved its 5!!!)

  5. 5 stars
    Made this lovely recipe with a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes I had in the pantry. It was very tasty, quick and easy to put together.
    I’ll try it again with the San Marzano tomatoes the writer recommends, but honestly it was great with the crushed.
    We’ll definitely make this again.

  6. 5 stars
    Really good! I have wanted to try making this for years. It was very easy and my family enjoyed it.. The San Marzano tomatoes and a good quality Parmesan cheese made a difference. I cut down on the red peppers because my husband does not like really spicy foods but the sauce was still tasty. I was not sure how much salt and pepper to add at the end but I just added a little.

  7. 5 stars
    Fancy name- easy dinner that is fantastic! Followed exactly as written and everyone loved it. Thank you for this recipe!!

  8. 5 stars
    Please delete my first review if possible. Accidentally hit 4 stars instead of 5.

    So delicious! I’ve made this recipe several times and even recommended it to a friend! I’ve added grilled shrimp/chicken and it’s perfect every time following step by step directions. Thank you!

  9. 5 stars
    Really great recipe. Easy to throw together & delicious flavor. Definitely use San Marzano’s & good parm. Flavor is so good.

  10. 5 stars
    This pasta dish was super easy to make, but looked and tasted so elegant!! My husband and I loved this recipe! We paired it with some garlic bread and a glass of red wine!

  11. I’m making this tonight and will report back with a review. Question, since you’re pureeing the tomatoes anyway, is there a reason to go with whole tomatoes over crushed or puree?

  12. 5 stars
    This creamy sauce is so good! I took your advice and added a can of white beans to the pasta for protein and it was delicious!

  13. 5 stars
    Penne alla vodka is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes, but oddly enough I’ve never made it for myself. Can’t wait to give it a try, this looks simple but so tasty!

  14. 5 stars
    Penne alla vodka sauce is one of my favorite Italian dishes! This was simple to make and has a restaurant-quality flavor!

  15. 5 stars
    Great recipe! Was easy and my whole family loved it! If serving to little kids, might be a little too spicy so I would suggest putting a little less of the crushed red pepper flakes. Made it with meat tortellini and was amazing! Definitely a recipe that will be kept!
    Thank you!