Penne Alla Vodka is a dish made of perfectly robust and soft penne pasta tossed in a vodka-infused, San Marzano tomato-based sauce that is creamy, lively, and flavored with fresh herbs and parmesan. What a fantastic meal recipe!
Pasta Primavera, Alfredo Sauce, simple Spaghetti Sauce, and the greatest Meatball Recipe are further traditional Italian-American dinnertime favorites. (
Penne pasta served in a bowl with vodka sauce and fresh oregano and basil on top. accompanied by a plate of warm Italian bread.
What flavor does the vodka provide the vodka sauce then? Since much of the alcohol has been boiled off, you aren’t left with a strong vodka flavor; instead, it only enhances and accentuates the tomato flavors.
If you want to use pancetta, this simple vodka sauce has a vivid tomato flavor and is beautifully herbaceous, peppery, and slightly smoky.
Additionally, the red pepper flakes give it a fun, spicy zing on the tip of your tongue.
The dish becomes deserving of a fine dining establishment when you add the last flourish of aged, highly flavorful Parmigiano Reggiano!
You can create this traditional Italian-American cuisine at home in just a few simple steps! Furthermore, unlike a bolognese sauce, this does not require hours of boiling. This dish may be prepared in just 30 minutes!
What You’ll Need To Make Penne with Vodka Sauce
Canned San Marzano tomatoes – these are an Italian-grown variety of tomatoes that have less acidity and better sweetness, I don’t recommend substitutions unless you don’t have access to them. Then go with canned plum/Roma tomatoes and add a pinch or two of sugar.
- Extra virgin olive oil – don’t use standard refined olive oil here. We want that stronger extra virgin flavor in this dish. It compliments the tomato flavor.
- Yellow onion – mince these up fine so they’ll become tender with a brief saute and simmer period.
- Prosciutto or pancetta – this cured Italian ham is optional but it does add a delicious flavor.
- Garlic – only use freshly minced for best flavor.
- Salt and pepper – add to taste but remember the sauce will reduce some so don’t overdo it.
- Vodka – is a must in this recipe. With leftover vodka, I like to make homemade vanilla.
- Red pepper flakes – if you don’t like spicy food you can omit this. If you love spicy double or even triple the amount.
- Heavy cream – I don’t recommend lower fat substitutions here.
- Fresh basil and fresh oregano – if you don’t want to purchase both you can use one or the other but I love the blend here. If you have leftovers use them to make pizza sauce or marinara.
- Shredded parmesan cheese – want to add extra flavor to the sauce? Simmer a parmesan rind with the sauce.
- Penne pasta – cook to al dente and be sure to reserve some of the starchy pasta water before draining, which is used to loosen the sauce as needed.
Making Penne Alla Vodka: A Recipe
- Boil water: Bring a pot of water to a boil to cook pasta. Season water with salt.
- Saute aromatics and prosciutto: Heat oil in a separate large pot over medium heat. Add onion and prosciutto, saute for 4 – 5 minutes, add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 1 minute longer.
- Add tomatoes and vodka, simmer: Remove pan from heat and add tomatoes, and vodka, season with salt and pepper to taste. Return to medium-high heat, bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until strong alcohol scent has cooked off, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cook pasta: Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
- Mix cream, herbs, and parmesan into the sauce: Stir cream into the sauce and let just heat through for about 1 minute. Stir in parmesan, basil, and oregano.
- Toss vodka sauce and penne: Add drained pasta to pot with sauce, toss to coat, while thinning sauce with a little pasta water as needed. Serve warm with more parmesan and garnish with more basil if desired.
The Best Vodka Sauce Advice
- Use substances of high caliber. Only what you put into it will determine how nice it tastes.
- If you don’t simmer it for a long enough period, the alcohol will begin to taste and will significantly overshadow the dish.
- To make a smoother, less lumpy sauce, finely crush the tomatoes. You could even pulse them in a food processor if you’d like.
- Avoid using bottled garlic or dried herbs. This vodka sauce particularly benefits from the use of fresh ingredients.
Vodka Sauce: Freezer Safe?
Yes. For up to three months, this can be frozen in an airtight container. Or it will last for around 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
- Add rotisserie or grilled chicken.
- Replace the pancetta with bacon instead; it has a different flavor, but who doesn’t adore bacon?
- Substitute browned ground veal, beef, pork, or Italian sausage for the pancetta.
- Add shrimp, another delectable partnering possibility.
- Try using it in place of marinara sauce in dishes like chicken parmesan or lasagna.
- Rigatoni, ziti, mostaccioli, elicoidali, fusilli, or even simply spaghetti can be substituted for penne. Any type of spaghetti will do.
What Sides Should You Serve With Creamy Vodka Noodle Soup?
- Italian Bread
- Salad Caesar
- Roasted vegetables with parmesan and garlic
Penne Alla Vodka (Best Vodka Sauce!)
A creamy, colorful sauce made with vodka, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh herbs, and parmesan is tossed with perfectly hearty and soft penne pasta. What a fantastic meal recipe!
- 1 (28 oz) can of San Marzano tomatoes, finely mashed by hand
- two tablespoons of virgin olive oil
- Sliced yellow onion, half a cup
- 3 ounces of chopped prosciutto or pancetta (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt
- half a cup of vodka
- Red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon, or more or less to taste
- 1.5 cups of heavy cream
- Parmesan cheese, shredded finely, plus additional for serving, 1/4 cup
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped oregano
- 14 cup finely minced fresh basil
- 14 ounces of penne pasta plus any saved pasta water for sauce thickening as necessary.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil to cook pasta. Season water with salt.
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and prosciutto saute for 4 – 5 minutes, add garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute for 1 minute longer.
- Remove pan from heat and add tomatoes, and vodka, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Return to medium-high heat, bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until strong alcohol scent has cooked off, about 15 minutes**, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
- Stir cream into sauce and let just heat through about 1 minute. Stir in parmesan, basil, and oregano.
- Add drained pasta to pot with sauce, toss to coat, while thinning sauce with a little pasta water as needed. Serve warm with more parmesan and garnish with more basil if desired.
- *If you can locate crushed San Marzano tomatoes, you can buy them or pulse the tomatoes in a food processor to make a smoother sauce.
- **Make sure to give the sauce enough time to boil or the alcohol flavor may overshadow the other flavors in the dish.
- Three months’ worth of sauce can be frozen.