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penne alla vodka plated

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!
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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
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ cup vodka * see notes
  • 2 cups tomato sauce ** see notes for substitutions
  • 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 ¼ cup tomato paste and a ½ 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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