Penne Alla Vodka is thick and hearty pasta dish with a delicious creamy vodka tomato sauce. Penne is the perfect pasta choice as the noodles really hold the sauce giving it just the right amount of savory flavor!

Top this 30 minute meal with fresh parmesan cheese and serve with a big hunk of Homemade Garlic Bread and an Easy Italian Salad for the perfect meal!

Penne alla vodka in a pot with Parmesan cheese and parsley on top

Easy Creamy Tomato Sauce

Don’t be put off by the fancy sounding name, this easy pasta Alla Vodka recipe is always on the menu at your favorite Italian recipe…and for good reason!

What is Penne Alla Vodka? Hailing from both Italy AND America, a good Penne Alla Vodka recipe is one of the most iconic recipes of the 80s however, the exact origin of this popular dish is kind of mysterious. Penne is tossed into a creamy Vodka sauce with garlic, pancetta, whole tomatoes and heavy cream and parmesan cheese! A sprinkle of Italian parsley is a beautiful and tasty garnish!

Penne alla vodka in a white bowl with parsley and parmesan cheese on top

How to Make Penne Alla Vodka

Like most pasta recipes, this is an easy and quick dish! The sauce is ready almost as quickly as the pasta boils!

It all starts with a bit of garlic and pancetta. Crisp up the pancetta to render some of the fat and flavor. Put on a pot of salted boiling water for the pasta while you make the sauce.

Pancetta is the only item in this recipe that is unusual but it’s worth looking for at the grocery store. If you can’t find it you can use bacon or prosciutto in its place (although it changes the flavor of this dish).

Penne alla vodka ingredients in a pot

To Make Penne Alla Vodka Sauce

This Penne Alla Vodka sauce recipe is so easy, it practically cooks itself! As the name indicates, yes, there is vodka in this sauce! It adds wonderful flavor but does cook down so the dish doesn’t taste boozy (and don’t worry the alcohol cooks off so you won’t get drunk from it)! Add Vodka into the pan with the garlic and pancetta and let it simmer.

Stir in the chili flakes and canned whole Italian tomatoes (San Marzano are best). Be sure to use quality whole Italian tomatoes for best flavor and consistency. Simmer for a little bit to thicken, stir in heavy cream and simmer to thicken a little bit more!

Add in the pasta and a handful of parmesan cheese. Season to taste and garnish with parsley and more parmesan cheese.

Voila. Easy right?

Penne alla vodka in a bowl garnished with parsley

Customize This Creamy Pasta

  • Add in Italian sausage, Meatballs or even top with Oven Baked Chicken Breasts for a delicious penne alla vodka with chicken
  • Baked Penne Alla Vodka is another cheesy favorite! Prepare as directed, top with a bit of mozzarella/parmesan and bake at 400°F about 15 minutes.
  • Swap out the penne for your favorite pasta shape. Shapes with holes or ridges are best (like ziti, rotini or rigatoni) as they grab the sauce.

More Italian Favorites

Penne alla vodka in a white bowl with parsley and parmesan cheese on top
4.91 from 20 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Penne alla Vodka

This easy pasta has a creamy vodka tomato sauce tossed with penne and lots of fresh parmesan cheese!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 pound penne cooked al dente
  • 4 ounces pancetta chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • cup vodka
  • 28 ounces whole Italian tomatoes with juices
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese divided
  • 3 tablespoons parsley


  • Cook garlic in butter over medium low heat until fragrant. Add pancetta and cook 2 more minutes.
  • Add vodka and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chili flakes and tomatoes slightly breaking up with a spoon. Simmer 8-10 minutes.
  • Add cream and cook 5 minutes. Add penne to the sauce and cook 1 minute to combine flavors. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat, stir in ½ cup parmesan cheese.
  • Place in bowls and top with parsley and remaining parmesan cheese.
4.91 from 20 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 595 | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 557mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 985IU | Vitamin C: 15.8mg | Calcium: 219mg | Iron: 2.6mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. Huge hit with the kids! I was hoping they would just eat it and not complain but they absolutely loved it and asked for seconds!

  2. First time making Penne alla Vodka. Recipe was quick and easy. Whole family loved it! Will be making again. Thanks for sharing!5 stars

  3. Made this on a whim and we loved it. My husband just let me know that he has eaten the last of it and is begging for more. I followed the recipe exactly except had only plain whole tomatoes so I generously added Italian seasoning to them. Worked great. Just before serving I added 2-1 parmesan & mozzarella. I used a little less than a lb of penne. My suggestion to first timers is to measure out all sauce ingredients into little containers before starting…things don’t cook long before the next ingredient is needed, so it avoided confusion. Delicious! (BTW had my doubts about the Pancetta, but it was fantastic…I wouldn’t substitute anything else)5 stars

  4. It was good but not great. Better pasta Alla vodka recipes out there. Needs some tomato paste and olive oil added in. Fresh mozzarella would be a good touch too.3 stars

  5. I made this for my husband who loves vodka sauce. I was a little skeptical but my whole family loved it!!! I will definitely be making this again. It is super easy and quick to make and the whole family had seconds!5 stars

  6. Pancetta was crazy expensive so ended up using bacon instead. Didn’t have Italian tomatoes so added Italian seasoning to regular canned tomatoes. Everyone in the house LOVED it and kids asked if we could make it again and again.

      1. We’ve only made this recipe as listed, but hamburger meat would probably taste delicious Lisa!