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.
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:
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.
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.
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.