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!
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!
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).
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?
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
- Easy Chicken Parmesan – Reader favorite!
- Easy Homemade Lasagna – Classic and delicious!
- Baked Ziti – Make ahead family dinner!
- Easy Chicken Marsala – Great over spaghetti
- Chicken Piccata– with a buttery lemon caper sauce!
Penne alla Vodka
- 1 pound penne cooked al dente
- 4 ounces pancetta chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup vodka
- 28 ounces whole Italian tomatoes with juices
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅔ 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.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)