Classic Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

Do you ever just want to curl up under a blanket, sit by the fire, and enjoy a nice, big bowl of pasta while binge-watching your favorite show? Yeah, us too. This penne alla vodka recipe is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter night, and it's great to serve a crowd. Whether you need something for a girls night or a family dinner, this dish aims to please.

Recipe developer Miriam Hahn knows a thing or two about cooking pasta, and she came up with this simple yet flavorful recipe for penne alla vodka. Hahn explains perfectly how this recipe and penne alla vodka, in general, stands out above the rest. "Other pasta sauces tend to be thinner and one-dimensional, whereas this one is on the heavier side and very satisfying," Hahn shares. She also reveals her favorite part about this recipe. "I am a creature of habit when it comes to pasta sauces and mostly go with a homemade marinara, but sometimes a thick, creamy sauce with a kick is calling my name," Hahn says. "This sauce has a robust taste with a spicy kick from the red pepper flakes that is just perfect for a chilly winter night."

Gather the ingredients for this penne alla vodka recipe

Ready to begin? You will need to head to the store and get penne pasta, olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, vodka, crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and butter. The recipe also calls for one optional ingredient — fresh basil.

Once you have those things, you can make this delicious penne alla Vodka.

Cook the pasta and sauté onion and garlic

Grab your pasta and check the back of the box for cooking instructions. Since every brand varies, instructions will differ slightly. Once you finish cooking the pasta, drain and set it to the side.

Place a large stock pot on your stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, making sure to stir frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. "You really want your onion diced pretty small. You are going for a smooth sauce, and we don't want big onion chunks in the sauce," Hahn notes.

Add vodka and crushed tomatoes

Once you finish the onions and garlic, remove the stock pot from the heat (for safety reasons) and add the vodka. Once you add the vodka, place the pot back on the burner and turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 3 minutes, frequently stirring as you go.

Next, add the crushed tomatoes. Once again, you will need to stir to combine. "Using crushed tomatoes or tomato puree is also going to give us that smooth, silky sauce," Hahn shares. "Canned diced tomatoes can be used if you run them through the blender first."

Continue adding ingredients

Once the 3 minutes have passed, reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream. At this time, you can also toss in the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as well. The red pepper flakes give it a nice, subtle kick. Stir again to combine.

Next, add the butter and stir, then pop the cover back on the pot. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the butter melts.

Reserve sauce and combine

Reserve about 1 ½ cups of pasta sauce and save for serving. Then, dump the cooked pasta into the pot with the sauce and stir to combine.

Serve and enjoy

Now, the pasta is good to go. Simply plate and serve as you desire. Once you have the pasta on the plate or in the bowl, add the fresh basil (if you choose to) and the extra sauce. "If you want to add protein, sausage or plant-based sausage works really well," Hahn suggests. "You would just cook that in a separate pan, drain and add to the sauce at the end. Ground beef would also work."

Be sure to save anything that you don't finish! "Leftovers last for up to 5 days in the fridge," Hahn shares. "The pasta will dry out a little bit so if you have saved some of the extra sauce it will be perfect!" We hope you loved this recipe as much as we do!

Classic Penne alla Vodka Recipe
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If you want to add a new pasta dish to your weekly dinner lineup, learn how to make this classic penne alla vodka with a thick, creamy sauce.
Prep Time
Cook Time
penne alla vodka in bowl
Total time: 18 minutes
  • 16 oz. Penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 cans (14 ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Optional Ingredients
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside
  2. Add the oil to a large stock pot and heat to medium high heat. Now add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove from heat and add the vodka. Put the pot back on medium heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well to combine.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the heavy cream, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir.
  6. Add the butter, stir, and cover. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the butter is fully melted
  7. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the sauce for serving and pour the cooked pasta into the pot of remaining sauce.
  8. Stir and serve. Top with fresh basil and add extra sauce if desired.
Calories per Serving 769
Total Fat 33.1 g
Saturated Fat 18.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 103.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 78.7 g
Dietary Fiber 5.0 g
Total Sugars 9.0 g
Sodium 647.6 mg
Protein 15.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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