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Simple Penne alla Vodka Pasta

20 minutes. Cook
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Penne alla Vodka pasta is a classic Italian-American dish that has captured the hearts and palates of many around the world. With its creamy, tomato-infused sauce and a subtle kick from vodka, this dish strikes the perfect balance between comfort food and elegance. Its origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but many attribute its creation to Italian immigrants in the United States in the mid-20th century. Today, it’s a beloved staple on Italian restaurant menus and a popular choice for home cooks looking to impress. In this article, we will delve into the art of creating a simple yet delightful Penne alla Vodka pasta.


  1. Boil the Penne:

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add two tablespoons of salt to the boiling water; this will help season the pasta. Then, add the penne pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente, usually around 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Once done, drain the pasta in a colander and set it aside.

  • Saute the Aromatics:

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and minced garlic, sautéing until they become translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

  • Create the Vodka Sauce:

Pour in the vodka, stirring gently. Allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes, letting the alcohol cook off and leaving behind a subtle depth of flavor. Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Stir well, and let the sauce simmer for about 10-15 minutes, allowing it to reduce and thicken.

  • Add the Cream and Cheese:

Lower the heat and pour in the heavy cream, stirring continuously until the sauce turns creamy and cohesive. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle in the grated Parmesan cheese, stirring until it’s fully incorporated into the sauce. This will further enrich the texture and flavor of the dish.

  • Combine the Pasta and Sauce:

Gently introduce the cooked and drained penne into the skillet with the vodka sauce. Stir everything together until the pasta is well coated, and every piece glistens with the luscious sauce.

  • Serve and Garnish:

Transfer the Penne alla Vodka pasta to a serving platter or individual plates. To add a touch of freshness and aroma, garnish with fresh basil leaves. The contrast of the vibrant green basil against the rich, creamy sauce is visually striking and enhances the overall experience.

  • Enjoy Your Culinary Masterpiece:

Penne alla Vodka pasta is best enjoyed piping hot. Serve it alongside some crusty bread or a simple side salad for a satisfying meal that will transport your taste buds to Italy with every bite.


Penne alla Vodka pasta is a timeless Italian-American classic that exemplifies the harmony of flavors and textures in Italian cuisine. With its creamy, tomato-based sauce infused with a hint of vodka, it’s a dish that manages to be both comforting and sophisticated. Whether you’re preparing it for a special occasion or simply craving a delicious homemade meal, this recipe offers a delightful culinary journey. So, don your apron and embark on a culinary adventure in your own kitchen, uncovering the magic of Penne alla Vodka pasta, one delicious bite at a time.


prep time
30 minutes.
cooking time
20 minutes.
total time
30 minutes.


  • Large pot for boiling pasta

  • Large skillet or saucepan

  • Wooden spoon or spatula

  • Pasta strainer

  • Grater for Parmesan cheese

  • Serving platter or individual plates


  • 16 oz (450g) penne pasta

  • 2 tablespoons salt (for pasta water)

  • For the Vodka Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 can (28 oz/800g) crushed tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vodka

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • 1/4 cup (60g) grated Parmesan cheese

  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish


Boil the penne pasta.
Saute onion and garlic.
Create the vodka sauce.
Combine pasta and sauce.
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