Penne alla Vodka is a delicious dish that any pasta lover will enjoy! Adding vodka to the tomato-based sauce is a nice twist to a rather simple pasta dish.
Penne alla Vodka Recipe
This is an Italian-American dish that has stuck around for years because it is simply delicious! It is creamy and hearty, and the sauce has a defined kick to it that is unique.
No wonder why restaurants all over the world feature this dish on their menus. This dish from the 1970s remains a popular choice among restaurant-goers.
But do not go to your favorite Italian restaurant just yet! Knowing this recipe has saved me a lot of trips to costly restaurants.
It is made with basic ingredients, nothing too fancy, and does not require special techniques but the taste is superb. Have this restaurant-quality dish at home with this easy recipe!
What is Penne alla Vodka?
It is made traditionally with penne as the pasta and the red sauce is made with tomatoes, cream, pancetta or bacon, and vodka. It is largely an American dish that has authentic Italian touches.
Both Italy and America claim to have invented this dish. The origin is not defined but it has grown popular in America in the disco scene of the 1980s.
Does Penne alla Vodka have vodka?
Yes, it does! Hence, it was called as such. If you are wondering if you will get intoxicated by consuming this, then, the answer is no. By the time it is served, you will no longer be able to discern the alcohol.
It is said that the vodka’s role is to release flavors from the tomatoes that are only possible with the addition of alcohol. This is a popular technique in Italian cuisine. Another function is to keep the cream and oil emulsified.
How to Make Penne alla Vodka:
- Prep the pasta: Cook the penne according to the instructions in the package.
- Make the sauce: Sauté the aromatics in butter. Add the red pepper flakes and other seasonings. Meanwhile, make a puree out of the tomatoes by using the blender or food processor then, add it in. Add the vodka, simmer for 10 minutes, then, add in the cream and cheese. Simmer further.
- Combine: Pour the sauce on top of the cooked penne.
- Serve: Top with more cheese, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves then, serve.
What goes well with it?
I suggest that you pair with any of the following equally tasty sides:
- Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
- Roasted Cauliflower
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
- Maple Soy Grilled Salmon
- Grilled Chicken Wings
- Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
- Tomato Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
Can you make it in advance?
Yes! What you can do is cook the sauce and penne in advance, store separately in the fridge, then, reheat together on the stove.
How to Store:
- Refrigerate: Penne can stay good in the fridge for 3 to 5 days as long as properly cooled and stored in an airtight container. Store the sauce separately for up to a week.
- Freeze: This dish can be frozen with the sauce and penne combined. The dish can last for up to 2 months frozen in freezer bags.
- Add in bacon bits, grilled salmon bits, prosciutto, and grilled chicken breast strips to add protein to the dish.
- Tomato paste is a nice substitute and it has a concentrated flavor making the sauce’s flavors deeper and richer.
- Use other types of short pasta such as rigatoni and rotini if you like.
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes Total time: 40 mins
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 sweet onion (finely diced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (plus more for garnish)
- 28 ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Basil leaves (for serving)
- Cook penne pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions, aiming for al-dente.
- In the meantime, prepare the Vodka Sauce.
- Place a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the diced onion and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes to a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the tomato puree to the pan, followed by the vodka. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Stir in the heavy cream until fully combined and finally add the parmesan cheese, simmer the sauce for another 5 minutes or until thickened. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
- Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce, toss to coat.
- Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and garnished with basil leaves.