This Dump-and-Bake Penne alla Vodka is an easy dinner that comes together in only 10 minutes, since you don’t even have to boil the pasta! Just stir everything together and pop it in the oven for a delicious one pot meal!
You all seem to love my dump-and-bake dishes, so today I’m bringing you another great option to mix up the weekly meal plan and get you out of that cooking rut! In fact, you can throw these ingredients together in one dish and you hardly have to do any real “cooking” at all! How nice is that?!
A classic Penne alla Vodka is a rustic pasta dish that traditionally involves a sauce made from scratch with heavy cream, vodka, crushed tomatoes, and often pancetta, sausage, or peas. In my shortcut version, I take advantage of a few store-bought pantry staples for a rich, creamy, and flavorful meal that fits our busy lives!
I added cooked bacon to my casserole, which lends a great (affordable) smoky flavor to the dish and replaces the pancetta that’s often used in Penne alla Vodka. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, you can easily omit the bacon altogether or just substitute with a cup or two of frozen peas instead! I would add the peas to the dish during the final few minutes of baking, though — you don’t want them to be overcooked and mushy.
I should also mention the vodka here. If you don’t keep alcohol in your house, or if you’d rather skip it, that’s no problem — just use an additional 1/4 cup of chicken broth in its place. BUT, I can assure you that the alcohol cooks off as the pasta bakes…so you won’t find your children drunk on vodka by the end of the meal! It’s a very mild taste that’s almost undetectable in the finished product.
When you mix everything together in the dish, it will look like you have a lot of liquid. Trust me, though — if you keep the cover on tight, the pasta will absorb almost all of that liquid as it cooks. The end result is Penne alla Vodka in a thick, rich, creamy tomato sauce. Simple, classic, and SO darn easy!
Dump-and-Bake Penne alla Vodka
- 1 22 ounce jar Alfredo sauce (about 2 ½ cups)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup vodka or substitute with an additional 1/4 cup of chicken broth
- 1 16 ounce package uncooked penne pasta
- 1 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 9 slices cooked chopped bacon (I buy the package of cooked bacon and just use kitchen shears to cut it in small pieces right over the dish – no cutting board necessary!)*
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
- Optional: Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped herbs such as basil, oregano, or parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- In a large 13 x 9-inch baking dish, whisk together Alfredo sauce, chicken broth, and vodka until completely combined. Stir in the uncooked pasta, diced tomatoes, bacon, and garlic. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
- Uncover; stir. At this point you should check the pasta to make sure that it is al dente (firm but just about finished cooking). If it’s still a bit too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven until pasta is al dente. Then move on to the next step.
- Sprinkle mozzarella over the top. Bake uncovered for about 5 more minutes (or until cheese is melted).
- Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan or fresh chopped herbs, if desired.
Cooking Just for Two? You can easily prepare a smaller casserole by cutting all of the ingredients in half and baking in an 8-inch square dish. Cooking time and instructions should remain the same.
*For a vegetarian option, you can omit the bacon entirely, or you can substitute with about 1-2 cups of frozen peas. Stir in the frozen peas towards the end of the baking time (just before topping the casserole with the shredded cheese) so that they stay nice and green and don't get too mushy.
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