Penne Alla Vodka Recipe (2024)


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This Penne alla Vodka recipe is the perfect blend of tomato, vodka, heavy cream, garlic, and onions simmered together to make a unique, pink sauce.

Penne with Vodka Sauce Recipe

John loves comfort food like broccoli cheese soup or chicken paprikash. Our son adores a good French onion casserole.

Me? Give me all the pasta! Penne alla vodka is one of my top five pasta favorites. Spaghetti arrabiata is up there, too, along with Giuseppe’s pasta from a restaurant in South Florida called Flanigan’s.

We have a similar tomato basil pasta recipe that’s pretty close, so whenever I get a craving for that South Florida favorite I make it.

Penne alla vodka is one that I make often. It’s not too complicated, and we all love it!

It’s a simple sauce of sautéed onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes combined with tomato sauce, heavy cream, and of course, vodka!

Toss that pink sauce with perfectly cooked penne, and you’ve got an amazing dish.

We even made an Instant Pot penne alla vodka version, and a couple of spin off recipes with similar ingredients.

One is our Instant Pot Creamy Tomato Pasta and the other is Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Pasta. Both are delicious and very popular with our readers.

How to Make Penne alla Vodka:

Scroll to the recipe card below for full instructions and ingredient amounts!

  1. Cook your pasta noodles, per the box instructions. Keep about a ¼ cup of pasta water to use in the vodka sauce if it’s too thick.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together in a large saucepan. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste or omit if desired).
  3. Cook over low-medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 30 seconds to a minute just until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  4. Pour in ½ a cup of vodka, and stir to combine. *If you are working with an open flame, turn off the flame before pouring the vodka.
  1. Please note, it’s important to let the alcohol cook out of the vodka before adding other ingredients. Otherwise, your sauce will taste boozy. That boozy taste is great in a vodka cranberry co*cktail, but it’s not so tasty in penne alla vodka.
  2. Let the vodka sauce cook for about 15 minutes and then add the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Continue to stir to incorporate the heavy cream.
  1. Bring the vodka sauce to a steep, but don’t let it bubble or boil; otherwise, the cream may curdle. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Toss the cooked noodles with vodka sauce. If the sauce is too thick, use a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. If it’s fine, toss out the pasta water.
  3. Serve the penne alla vodka with shaved Parmesan, fresh basil, a baguette slice, and a side salad.

Tips and Variations:

  • If you’d like to add a protein to your penne alla vodka, try this Penne alla Vodka with Pancetta or toss on some grilled shrimp.
  • Add from peas for some added veggies.
  • Swap out the vodka for red wine for a different flavor profile.
  • Serve with roasted garlic, plenty of fresh basil, and shave Parmesan cheese.

Does penne alla vodka taste like vodka?

If the vodka is cooked down properly, you won’t be able to taste it. However, if it’s not cooked out, the pasta can have an alcohol or boozy flavor that can be quite strong.

What is the purpose of vodka in penne alla vodka?

The vodka interacts with the tomato sauce to bring out flavors that may not be noticeable otherwise. It also emulsifies the sauce and helps hold the heavy cream and tomato sauce together.

Normally the fat in the cream and the acid in the tomato would cause the sauce to separate.

What can I use instead of vodka in penne alla vodka?

For an alcohol based substitution, try silver tequila, white rum, or red wine. For a non-alcoholic swap, try water mixed with a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice.

Any of these substitutions may change the flavor of the pasta from the original version.

What protein can you add to penne alla vodka?

Cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken, ham, shrimp, bacon or pancetta would all make great additions.

Can you freeze vodka sauce?

Yes, you can freeze vodka sauce. I’d recommend making the vodka sauce without the noodles and freezing it in batches.

Allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer it to freezer-safe containers or zip top bags. The vodka sauce should freeze well for up to 3 months.

Storage options:

Refrigerator: Penne alla stores well in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

Freezer: We don’t recommend freezing the finished dish, but the vodka sauce does freeze well by itself. Allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer it to freezer-safe containers or zip top bags. The vodka sauce should freeze well for up to 3 months.

Reheating: Reheat chilled pasta in a saucepan over low heat. Add a splash of milk or heavy cream if needed to loosen the sauce.

Place the frozen vodka sauce in the refrigerator to thaw before adding it to pasta noodles or reheating.

Other recipes you may love:

  • Jalapeno Bacon Mac and Cheese
  • Broccoli Cheese Pasta Bake
  • Tuscan Chicken Pasta
  • Mexican Spaghetti
  • Spaghetti Pie
  • Lemon Pasta

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Penne Alla Vodka Recipe (6)

Penne Alla Vodka

5 from 11 votes

Print Pin

Author: Kimberly

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes minutes

Servings: 4 Servings


  • 16 ounces penne, cooked, drained with 1/4 cup pasta water reserved (per package directions)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  • Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain, but reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Set noodles aside.

    16 ounces penne

  • Melt butter and olive oil together in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and red pepper flakes. Cook until onions are translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 cup white onion

    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    4 garlic cloves

  • Pour in the vodka, and allow the alcohol to cook out, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

    1/2 cup vodka

    1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

    Salt and pepper

  • Reduce the heat to low, and add heavy cream. Stir to combine. Don’t allow the sauce to become too hot or cream could break or curdle. Bring sauce to a simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

    1 cup heavy cream

  • Toss the noodles with the sauce, and use the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. Top with grated parmesan and fresh basil. Serve immediately.

  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Suggested Equipment


Serving: 4Ounces | Calories: 820kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 113mg | Potassium: 396mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1191IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 2mg


*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 4 ounces of pasta. Actual calories will vary.

*Doubling or tripling this recipe has not been tested. Therefore, we can not guarantee the outcome of adjusting the ingredients.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

Don’t Lose This Recipe!Save it on Pinterest! Follow us at @berlyskitchen!

Penne Alla Vodka Recipe (2024)


What to do if you add too much vodka to vodka sauce? ›

If you can taste the vodka in the sauce, you've likely added too much, or perhaps you added it too late. The good news is that this is a simple fix. Just keep simmering the sauce to reduce the alcohol content.

What is Penne Alla vodka made of? ›

Penne alla vodka (Italian: [ˈpenne alla ˈvɔdka]) is a pasta dish made primarily with vodka and penne (or similar shapes such as rigatoni), usually accompanied with heavy cream, crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, onions, and sometimes small meats and vegetables like sausage, pancetta or peas.

How do you thicken penne alla vodka sauce? ›

Add freshly grated parmesan cheese once the cream has been added to the skillet. I would say 1/4 - 1/2 cup. Melting cheese into the sauce can also help thicken it up if you accidentally add too much cream or pasta water.

What goes well with penne alla vodka? ›

Either Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Frozen Broccoli would be delicious as a side dish. Bread. Don't let any of the scrumptious vodka sauce go to waste! Sop it up with a crusty loaf of your favorite bread (we love this Rosemary Olive Oil Bread and No Knead Focaccia).

What flavor cancels out vodka? ›


Lemonade is a sweet and slightly sour mixer that can mask the taste of vodka with ease. If you're craving something even sweeter or fruitier, pink lemonade is a great option that also makes beautiful co*cktails thanks to its pretty color.

Why does penne alla vodka taste so good? ›

In cooking, especially in penne alla vodka, deglazing a pan with liquor has many powers. Wine works, too, but a clean-tasting vodka has mostly water and ethanol (a solvent), which is excellent at carrying aromatic compounds — like those in tomatoes.

Do you actually put vodka in penne alla vodka? ›

The Importance of Vodka in Penne alla Vodka

And yes, the vodka really does matter here. We know, because we've done the tests before. Several years ago, Kenji delved into the matter of whether vodka sauce really needed the vodka, and the answer was an unequivocal yes (though the sauce is delicious without it, too).

How long to cook off vodka in sauce? ›

Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Pour in the tomato paste, along with the red pepper flakes, and cook it until the tomato paste turns a really dark red color, about 3 minutes. Add the vodka and let it sizzle and allow the vodka to cook off a bit, about 1 minute. Pour in the heavy cream and mix it until smooth.

Can I use milk instead of heavy cream in vodka sauce? ›

Normally it includes real cream for richness but I'm using reduced-fat milk. Great news though, it still retains the decadent flavor of a regular recipe but with a fraction of the fat and calories. In addition, I've placed it over fiber rich whole wheat penne instead of white pasta.

What meat goes best with vodka sauce? ›

If you're looking to make a creamy vodka spaghetti sauce, we highly recommend adding some Italian sausage or ground beef to the equation. The resulting dish is a deliciously meaty sauce perfect on its own or added to pasta of your choosing.

Is vodka sauce just alfredo and marinara? ›

Is vodka sauce a mix of marinara sauce and alfredo? No. Alfredo sauce mixed with marinara sauce is known as pink sauce. While pink sauce and vodka sauce are both types of tomato sauce, they are not the same thing.

Can you use half and half instead of heavy cream in vodka sauce? ›

Half & half adds the creaminess, but it's not so rich as heavy cream. If you can't find half & half, make your own by combining half whole milk and half heavy cream.

What do Italians eat vodka sauce with? ›

Popular Dishes Using Vodka Sauce:

Penne with Chicken: You will almost always find a variation of this dish on any Italian restaurant menu. This dish combines tender penne pasta, chicken bites, and a rich vodka sauce. Vegetables can also be paired with the dish.

What can I use instead of vodka in Penne Alla vodka? ›

I use the tang of lemon juice to replace the alcohol completely! I was able to still get amazing aromatics and still have that creamy texture, creating an amazing dish. Now personally, I love a lemony and tangy dish, but I also can be more liberal with the amount.

How do you tone down vodka sauce? ›

If you've got an overwhelming taste of vodka you just haven't burnt off enough of the alcohol. In such case just continue simmering the sauce to reduce down the alcohol. The longer you simmer the less powerful the vodka will be. Use your starchy pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce in order to do this.

How do you tone down vodka? ›

It's believed that grapefruit juice masks the taste of vodka pretty well, but cherry, grape or orange juice also work just fine. Also, if you drink plain vodka, don't sip it like wine. Just down the whole shot at once, this way you are not going to feel its taste so much.

What can I mix with vodka to make it less strong? ›

What To Mix With Vodka
  1. Soda Water.
  2. Cranberry Juice.
  3. Tonic Water.
  4. Orange Juice.
  5. Half & Half Spindrift.
  6. Ginger Beer.
  7. Grapefruit Juice and a Splash of Soda.
  8. Lime Juice and Simple Syrup.
Jan 14, 2022

Does vodka evaporate in vodka sauce? ›

The vodka's alcohol content evaporates as it cooks, so it doesn't leave behind any vodka or alcohol flavor in the final dish. The vodka absolutely matters to the flavors of the final dish, so if you feel the urge to skip it, don't!


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