penne alla vodka plated
30 minute meals, Dinner Recipes, Easy Dinners, Pasta Recipes, Sauces, Weeknight Meals

Penne Alla Vodka

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This vodka pasta sauce can make any dinner feel fancy! The alcohol will cook out, so you’ll just be left with subtle vodka flavor in a rich and creamy tomato sauce. But the vodka is 100% optional!

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how to make penne alla vodka

I was only introduced to this recipe when I went to a wedding about 3 years ago! I had never even heard of penne alla vodka, but it was love at first bite.

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    I knew right then and there that I wanted to know how to make penne alla vodka at home. So I did what any normal wedding guest would do … I took a picture of the menu so I wouldn’t forget the pasta’s name. I probably looked very odd interesting. But I’m not sorry I did!

    penne alla vodka in skillet overhead

    There’s something about cooking with alcohol just makes you feel outrageously fancy. And it’s a serious flex to post pictures of pasta with vodka sauce on Instagram! Just saying.

    (If you do, tag us @eatsdelightfulblog and #myeatsaredelightful so we can see it!!)

    penne alla vodka in skillet scooped up
    penne alla vodka in spoon (2)

    If you don’t want to add vodka, or if you just don’t have any on hand, you can most definitely leave it out! I’ve made this same recipe without vodka with fantastic results.

    There is a mild difference in flavor, but both variations taste delicious on their own!

    If you do leave out the vodka, you may just need to add some extra water to your sauce at the end to make up for the missing liquid.

    penne alla vodka plated closeup

    Some ideas for what to serve with penne alla vodka!

    braided garlic bread
    cucumber salad
    garlic herb breadsticks
    garlic butter broccoli

    If you liked this penne alla vodka, you may also like some of these other recipes:

    fettuccini alfredo
    mushroom pasta
    chicken in white wine sauce
    Italian meatballs recipe

    Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

    This vodka pasta sauce can make any dinner feel fancy! The alcohol will cook out, so you'll just be left with subtle vodka flavor in a rich and creamy tomato sauce. But the vodka is 100% optional!
    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 15 minutes
    Total Time 20 minutes
    Servings 4 people (approx.)


    • 8 ounces penne pasta
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 cup vodka * see notes
    • 2 cups tomato sauce ** see notes for substitutions
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • pinch of red pepper flakes, (optional) for added heat
    • grated Parmesan cheese, (optional topping)
    • fresh chopped parsley, (optional topping)


    • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Drain your cooked pasta, and set aside.
    • In a large skillet, Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and salt. Place over medium heat, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, or until the onion turns translucent and softens.
    • Move the skillet off the heat (to prevent flare ups!) and carefully add your vodka. Return to medium heat and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vodka reduces by about half.
    • Add the tomato sauce, and bring the mixture up to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes just to cook out any raw tomato flavor. *** (see notes) Pour in the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and salt if needed. If you'd like the sauce to be spicy, add in a pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste).
    • Toss the pasta in vodka sauce until all the pasta is coated. (Optional) Top with grated Parmesan cheese and/or chopped parsley.


    * If you want to leave this penne alla vodka alcohol free, you can leave the vodka out entirely. You may just need to add a splash of water at the end if the sauce is too dry. 
    ** You can use 1/4 cup tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water in place of the tomato sauce. You can also puree or chop a few fresh tomatoes, or use canned diced or whole tomatoes. 
    *** At this point, I actually like to puree my sauce right before adding the heavy cream (so it doesn’t turn into whipped cream). You can leave the sauce as is, but I personally prefer a smooth sauce so I do take the extra step here!


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