Pasta is pure comfort food. Plus, it’s easy, economical and you can take it in so many directions. An easy way to make a restaurant quality pasta dish at home is by making an easy Vodka Penne recipe. It’s creamy and delicious!
Growing up every Sunday…and I mean every Sunday, my parents made a Perdue chicken with all the fixings for dinner. Some Sundays, my siblings and I (5 kids) Sunday were like “roast chicken again??” We often joked that we never wanted to see another roast chicken again as long as we lived.
Flash forward to today, all my siblings and their families are busy, and dispersed here and there. I myself feel like I am always on the run with my kids and husband. My parents are no longer together. How I WISH for our Sunday roast chicken dinner with everyone around the table again. Playing a board game or two after dinner. Such simple times they were.
I began exploring how to make all sorts of dishes I hadn’t had growing up such as this easy, delicious Vodka Penne recipe. The easy to make & creamy Vodka Cream Tomato Sauce mingling with the pasta and maybe a hunk of crusty bread for dipping is pure bliss!
True story: When I was first married, one night after work, I cooked a Perdue chicken for dinner. I may have been seeking comfort. I missed the only home I had known a bit. You would think I could roast a chicken with my eyes closed haha! When the chicken was done, I pulled it from the oven to carve it and guess what? I carved off the legs but no white meat? I thought “what kind of a chicken doesn’t have white meat?” It late, around 8:00, I was hungry and tired. I got so upset, which is so not like me and I threw the chicken in the sink! I started to cry and ran to the bedroom to sulk.
My husband who didn’t cook at all came to the bedroom to try and calm me down. He had known me for over 5 years and knew that I didn’t react this way to anything. He listened to me freak out about the store selling a chicken with no white meat and gently said. “Honey you cooked the chicken it upside down, all the meat is there”. I was like “oh” I was just looking to recreate the comfort I had from those Sunday dinners and look what I got lol!
Soooo since we were starving at that point, I quickly whipped up this Vodka Penne recipe instead of ordering a pizza. I figured it would be much faster (and tastier). And it was.
How To make Penne alla Vodka
Gather your ingredients:
- grapeseed or olive oil
- pancetta or bacon
- chopped onion
- crushed tomatoes
- heavy cream
- Parmesan cheese
- fresh basil
- salt & pepper
Cook your pancetta in a medium pot until it just begins to crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel. Place oil in the same pot over medium heat, add in chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add in garlic sauté for 1 minute and then add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes stirring often. Next, add the vodka and allow it to simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Add in red pepper flakes and cream, simmer for just a few minutes until sauce bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in your freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking and more red pepper if you wish. Stir in basil. Set aside until ready to use.
You can make the sauce first and then cook your pasta. Up to you. You can also make the sauce ahead of time, just reheat the sauce gently on low so the cheese and cream don’t break.
Tips for making perfect Penne Vodka Sauce
- The better your ingredients, the better the result.
- Use San Marzano tomatoes if you can or fire roasted tomatoes (they really do both have deeper flavor).
- You can use whole canned tomatoes and crush them up with your hands, chopped tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. If you like chunks of tomato in your sauce, do it. If you want it smooth, use crushed.
- Only use freshly shredded Parmesan cheese for this, trust me.
- Use a good quality vodka.
- Have your ingredients prepped and ready to go before beginning to cook.
- Do not boil the sauce after the cream and cheese have been added. You risk “breaking” the added fat. Same goes for when you reheat it. Gently heat on low and just bring to a simmer.
- Fresh basil makes this dish sing!
I hope you enjoy this easy Vodka Penne Recipe!
As I am not a R.D or Nutritionist, the nutritional information is provided via a WordPress plug in. Recipe originally posted December 2009, updated August, 2021 with new photos and updated text.
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced pancetta you can omit this or add more if you like
- 1 TBS butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove minced garlic or 1/2 TBS garlic paste
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes if you enjoy tomato chunks in your sauce, you can use chopped or cut whole tomatoes from can
- 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
- 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (often I add 3/4 cup) or more to taste
- dash or two of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup decent vodka
- 10 fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons
- 1 box penne pasta
- dash of S&P
- Optional garnish – shredded Parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil for garnish
- Cook your pancetta in a medium pot until it just begins to crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel.
- Place oil in the same pot over medium heat, add in chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- Add in garlic sauté for 1 minute and then add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes stirring often.
- Add in the vodka and allow it to simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
- Add in red pepper flakes and cream, simmer for just a few minutes until sauce bubbles.
- Remove from heat and stir in your freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking and more red pepper if you wish.
- Stir in basil. Set aside until ready to use
- Serve over cooked penne pasta or your favorite pasta.
- Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese, basil and red pepper flakes.