Penne Alla Vodka features tender penne pasta coated in a luxuriously silky tomato cream sauce. It’s a creamy, sweet and vibrant pasta recipe that tastes gourmet but comes together in less than 20 minutes.
Best Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
The first time I tried Penne Alla Vodka, I was hosting a few friends in Florida and my friend Sharla over at The Chaos and The Clutter offered to make it.
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous because my then 6-year-old daughter was also going to be eating it with us. I didn’t want to serve a boozy pasta recipe to my child and I was worried that I’d have to be rude and prepare something else for my daughter after my friend generously offered to make us all supper.
Luckily, there was no boozy taste whatsoever. Vodka simply enhances the aromatic nature of this dish while balancing out the richness of the tomato cream sauce with a bit of sharpness and brightness (which sometimes our tastebuds interpret it as heat). It also helps emulsify the sauce for a cohesive, creamy texture.
As long as you cook the sauce as directed, there will be no vodka flavor or aftertaste and most of the alcohol content should be cooked off (supposedly – I’m not a scientist. This is just what I’ve read.)
So if penne alla vodka doesn’t taste like booze, what does it taste like?
Penne Alla Vodka (also known as penne vodka, pasta with vodka sauce or Moscow penne) is a filling and rich pasta dish with a creamy, velvety tomato cream sauce. It’s sweet and bright with a vibrant tomato flavor without the acidity that tomato sauce can sometimes have.
It sounds super fancy and complicated, but the sauce comes together in less than 20 minutes – about just as long as it takes to boil water and cook your pasta, so everything comes together quickly if you do both at the same time (like we do in the recipe below).
Penne Alla Vodka Variations:
- use fresh herbs instead of dried Italian seasoning
- make it spicy by either topping with red chile flakes or add them along to the onions while sauteeing
- add protein – I recommend chicken or shrimp
- use a diffferent pasta noodle instead of penne
- saute some pancetta or prosciutto in the oil along with the onions for a smoky, umami flavor
- use roasted tomatoe (link)
- for a sweeter sauce, incorporate tomato paste
If you need to prep ahead, the vodka sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
Once the vodka sauce is combined with the pasta, it can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Can I freeze penne alla vodka? While I don’t recommend freezing the pasta, you can freeze the vodka sauce without the pasta. Place in airtight ziptop freezer bags or your favorite freezer containers and freeze for up to three months. (This set of freezer containers is a crazy bargain.)
What can I use to replace the vodka in vodka alla penne sauce? While the vodka is not easily replaced, you can add a bit of lemon juice to brighten the recipe or use an equivalent amount of rich chicken broth in place of the vodka.
Tips for the Best Penna All Vodka:
- use a non-reactive pan – yes, I used my cast-iron skillet to take the pictures for this recipe because my cast iron is very well seasoned/oiled, but tomato recipes can react with aluminum or cast iron
- gently cook the onions and garlic – we want to bring out their sweetness and not have them overpower the dish with caramelization. Avoid charring the onions and garlic as much as possibly
- add tomato paste – if your sauce seems too acidic, tomato paste adds sweetness
- use heavy cream – a lower fat cream or milk is likely to be curdled by the acidity of the tomatoes
Ingredients to Make Penne Alla Vodka
- Dry Penne Noodles
- Olive Oil
- Garlic, minced
- Onion, minced
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Heavy Whipping Cream, 35%
- Italian Seasoning <– grab our recipe for homemade Italian seasoning here
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Tip: I often order my liquor from Drizly because they have a quick delivery time (sometimes within 40 minutes) and no expensive mark-ups. Purchasing from them supports local retailers, too. They have a great variety of vodkas you can use to make this recipe.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Cheese Grater
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula <– I like these spatulas because they are one solid piece and don’t have removable heads for bacteria to get trapped underneath. Plus they are heat-resistant and have a lifetime warranty.
How to Make Penne all Vodka
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse pasta.
Meanwhile, place butter and olive oil in a large skillet or stockpot over medium heat.
Once butter is melted and hot, add garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the vodka and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, heavy whipping cream and Italian seasoning to the stockpot. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, crushing the tomatoes as you cook with the back of your spoon.
When the sauce appears thick and smooth, stir in the penne noodles.
Garnish with optional Parmesan cheese and red chile flakes when ready to serve.
Grab your free printable recipe card for our penne alla vodka recipe:
- 3 1/2 cups Dry Penne Noodles
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Small Onion, minced
- 1/3 cup Vodka
- 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
- 2/3 cup Heavy Whipping Cream, 35%
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse pasta.
- Meanwhile, place butter and olive oil in a large skillet or stockpot over medium heat.
- Once butter is melted and hot, add garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the vodka and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, heavy whipping cream and Italian seasoning to the stockpot. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, crushing the tomatoes as you cook with the back of your spoon.
- When the sauce appears thick and smooth, stir in the penne noodles.
- Garnish with optional Parmesan cheese and red chile flakes when ready to serv
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 338Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 270mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 7g
Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
I hope your family loves this easy penne alla vodka as much as mine does!
For more perfect pastas, check out our full pasta recipe collection here: