Simple Penne alla Vodka

Vodka is not just for cocktails. Nope. It’s the brains behind the popular Penne alla Vodka recipe that blends cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and vodka (of course) into a savory, rich sauce that pairs perfectly with penne pasta.

Other great pasta recipes to try for a weeknight meal include my Farfalle a la Vodka with Chicken, Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff, Creamy Chicken Roasted Poblano Pasta, Chicken Pesto Penne Pasta, and Creamy Chicken Pesto Lasagna Rolls.

Overhead shot of Penne alla vodka

It’s no secret that the key to this recipe is the vodka sauce. But it’s such a versatile recipe; you can really make it your own. Try adding other veggies and even your favorite protein for an even more complete meal idea.

Penne with Vodka Sauce FAQs:

What exactly does vodka “do” for the sauce?

The sauce is effortless but packed with flavor. Vodka adds a little bite that helps balance out the sweetness from the tomatoes and cream. It basically releases flavors from the tomato and pulls in additional flavors without adding a flavor of its own—the perfect choice for a recipe such as this.

Can the vodka in the sauce cause intoxication?

Whether this is good or bad :), the vodka in vodka sauce cannot get you drunk. When cooking any alcohol, including vodka, the alcohol content is cooked off, leaving you with the taste and a tiny percentage of alcohol — not nearly enough to make an impact.

Ingredients you’ll need to make this pasta recipe:

penne alla vodka ingredients
  • Even though the vodka will cook off in this recipe, the flavor will remain. So, I recommend going with a quality vodka like Steel Dust Vodka, Wheatley Vodka, or Tito’s Vodka.
  • Penne is a cylinder-shaped pasta with ends cut at a sharp angle. Due to the tiny tunnels on the pasta, Penne works well with creamy sauces as all that goodness is captured in those ridges.
  • My go-to tomato sauce is fired roasted crushed tomatoes. It adds a bit of smokiness to the recipe, but nothing that would overpower it. You want to stick with crushed tomatoes to ensure a chunkier sauce.
  • To balance out the tartness of the tomato sauce, you’ll need heavy whipping cream and grated Parmesan cheese. The cream gives the vodka sauce it’s texture, and the Parmesan adds to its sharp flavor profile.
  • Vodka sauce is not vodka sauce without onions. I like sweet onions, but you can also use yellow onions (although they are not as sweet).
  • You’ll need low-sodium chicken stock, fresh minced garlic, all-purpose flour, and butter for the base.
  •  And last but not least, the herbs and seasonings: basil flakes (you can use fresh basil leaves if you have them), garlic powder, black pepper, crushed red pepper (for some heat), Himalayan salt.
Overhead shot of Penne pasta with vodka sauce

Tips, Tricks, and Adaptations:

  • Although the recipe has “Penne” in the name, feel free to substitute any pasta you like, like elbow, rigatoni, or ziti. You could also use wheat or gluten-free pasta.
  • Want to take this pasta up a notch and add some protein? Go right ahead. This pasta dish is equally great with strips of grilled chicken breast or tender chicken sausage.
  • Make sure the vodka sauce simmers long enough so the alcohol cooks off. If you rush through this final step, you will taste the alcohol, and it will completely take over the dish.
Close of of bowl of penne alla vodka

Penne alla Vodka is the perfect choice for a quick and easy pasta night. Many of these ingredients are staples in your pantry, allowing you to pull dinner together in no time.

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Overhead shot of Penne pasta with vodka sauce

Super Simple Penne alla Vodka

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 10 reviews

  • Author: Eric Jones
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


Penne alla Vodka blends heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and vodka to create a savory, rich sauce that pairs perfectly with penne pasta.


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup Vodka
  • 1 lb. Penne Pasta
  • 28 oz. Fired Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Onion
  • 1/3 cup Chicken Stock
  • 3 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 2 tsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tbsp Butter


  • 2 tsp Basil Flakes
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan Salt


  1. Add butter and minced garlic to the pan at medium heat. Once butter is melted, add flour and stir.
  2. Add chopped onion into the pan and cook until translucent. Add vodka and chicken stock. Stir until blended.
  3. Add all seasonings, whipping cream, grated parmesan cheese, and fire-roasted tomatoes to the pan.
  4. Cook Penne pasta as instructed, drain and add to the same pan.
  5. Fold in pasta then cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Calories: 341
  • Sugar: 4.7g
  • Sodium: 788mg
  • Fat: 14.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 8.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 39.6g
  • Fiber: 1.8g
  • Protein: 15.2g
  • Cholesterol: 85mg

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  1. Immaculate Ruému says:

    The vodka really brings the sauce together and flavour was just right. Rich, creamy and delicious.

  2. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity! The whole family loved it and I know I can make it over and over again because you broke it down so well. Thank you!

  3. I had to test my vodka to make sure it was good. LOL! I loved how the vodka was subtle enough not to overpower the sauce, but you could still get hints of it as you ate the dish. This is definitely a repeat.

  4. Britney Brown says:

    I love this recipe! Simple ingredients come together to make such a flavorful dish. It’s also so quick and easy – the perfect combo! Thanks for such an awesome recipe!

  5. I love pasta with vodka sauce but never knew how easy it could be to make at home until I tried this recipe! It’s so simple and SO delicious!

  6. So simple and yet so delicious. This is my new go-to vodka pasta recipe. I plan to try it with spaghetti next. Yum!

  7. Chef Mireille says:

    Yes, I love penna alla vodka and is such a great recipe. I added some grilled chicken and it made the perfect one pot meal!

  8. Crystal DaCruz says:

    Eric! This penne alla vodka was fantastic! Truly one of the best I’ve had! I can’t wait to make it again!

  9. This pasta is my kind of food – straightforward flavorful!

  10. This is such a simple recipe! Can’t wait to try this out with some chicken!