Go Back
+ servings
Close up side shot of a bowl of creamy penne alla vodka recipe
Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

Penne alla Vodka

The best Penne alla Vodka recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes!
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword authentic vodka sauce recipe, Penne alla Vodka, vodka sauce recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 457kcal
Author Blair Lonergan


  • 1 lb. dry penne pasta (or other short pasta of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup vodka (or sub with dry white wine or low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup homemade or store-bought pesto sauce
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh basil; freshly-grated Parmesan cheese


  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water; drain.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the garlic and onion; cook until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. Add the oregano and tomato paste, cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Turn off the burner and pour in the vodka. Turn the heat to medium-high, bring the liquid to a bubble, cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low; stir in tomato sauce, pesto, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Gradually stream in the cream, stirring constantly.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 more minutes, until heated through. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper or red pepper flakes, if necessary. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Stir in a little bit of the reserved cooking water, if necessary, to thin the sauce to the desired consistency. Garnish with freshly-grated Parmesan and fresh basil.


  • Cut the onion and garlic into a very fine dice or mince. This way they add flavor to the sauce, but they don't stand out or make the sauce chunky. They blend right in and the kids will never know they're there!
  • Cook the pasta just until al dente (tender, but with a firm bite). The total time necessary will depend on your specific brand and pasta shape, so check the instructions on your package.
  • Use a high-quality vodka that you would actually like to drink, since this is an important component of the sauce.
  • If you're cooking for a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half. This recipe makes a very large portion!
  • Make sure that the cream is at room temperature when you add it to the sauce. This will prevent it from "breaking" or separating.
  • Add chicken, shrimp or Italian sausage to the pasta and vodka sauce. You can brown chicken cutlets in olive oil in the skillet before making the sauce (about 2-3 minutes per side for thin cutlets), sauté shrimp in the skillet before making the sauce, or brown the Italian sausage in the skillet and drain off the fat before making the sauce. Remove the cooked chicken, shrimp or sausage from the pan while you make the sauce, then return it to the dish at the very end.
  • Bacon or pancetta are both nice additions to the sauce, as well. Brown the meats in the skillet before making the sauce, then remove the bacon or pancetta to a plate (reserve the drippings in the pan). Use the drippings with a little bit more olive oil or butter to saute the garlic and onion for the sauce. Then return the cooked bacon or pancetta to the sauce at the very end.


Serving: 1/8 of the recipe | Calories: 457kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 565mg | Potassium: 382mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 827IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 2mg