Filed Under: Italian | Pasta | Savory

Penne with Vodka Sauce

By Tessa Arias
May 10th, 2011

Penne with Vodka Sauce is the perfect simple yet gourmet vegetarian Italian pasta dish everyone should have in their repertoire!

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Tangy with a slight spice and kick that hits the back of your throat.
: Dreamy, creamy, cheesy, and smooooth.
Ease: Very easy.
Appearance: How could this dish look bad? Especially when it’s garnished with cheese and basil.
Pros: Full of flavor and easy. The recipe as is can be a great lunch or light dinner. Throw some grilled chicken or sausage in and you have a heartier meal.
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Yes.

This has been a crazy week for me. Mother’s day, finals, preparing for Blogher Food, and my boyfriend leaving town for 6 weeks. Blah. I was a little worried about keeping up with posting on here but luckily I’ve got a few recipes up my sleeve.

Last week I was flipping through my recipe binder – the one where I add recipes clipped from magazines – and I was reminded of this one for Penne with Vodka Sauce. I realized it has been way too long since I posted one of my favorite types of food – pasta! There’s nothing better than a warm plate of creamy, fragrant pasta. Just the scent of pasta boiling in the pot makes my mouth water. In fact, writing this post has made me want some pasta for lunch…

How to make
Penne with Vodka Sauce

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Penne with Vodka Sauce is the perfect simple yet gourmet vegetarian Italian pasta dish everyone should have in their repertoire!


  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat penne
  • 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for topping


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook as the package directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka, tomatoes and salt to taste. Return the skillet to medium heat and simmer, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off, about 7 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and basil.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Season with salt. Serve topped with more parmesan and basil.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Course : Main Course
Cuisine : Italian

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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  7. #
    Brooke — January 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Oh and I have added this to my board on pinterest, I hope people who follow me give this a try, fool proof and wonderful!

    • #
      handleheat — January 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      Brooke – Thanks for your kind comment and support!!

  8. #
    Brooke — January 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I add crumbled sausage to this and a few handfuls of frozen peas at the end to make it a full meal for the family. My kids loves this even with the touch of heat and my husbands asks for this almost weekly!

  9. #
    July — January 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I love it! I made it yesterday for the first time and i'm proud of myself. it taste like the ones in the restaurant. Thanks for the recipe. Really like your blog.


  10. #
    Tracey — May 18, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I've been meaning to try pasta with vodka sauce for ages – thanks for the reminder!

  11. #
    michelle — May 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Oh! DUH. I just saw it in your shop. LOL. Sorry!

  12. #
    michelle — May 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Yum, I just found you and your site through Foodgawker, LOVE your pics! Simply gorgeous! What equipment do you use? I looked in the about section.. didn't see it, I was just curious. 🙂

  13. #
    Brian — May 12, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Cons… yeah, there are no cons. Looks fantastic!

  14. #
    Julia — May 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Just the smell of pasta boiling makes my mouth water too, I LOVE pasta!!!! And adding vodka to pasta, duh, done and done!

  15. #
    kawaiikitchen — May 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    This pasta looks really delicious! I haven't tried vodka penne before, but I'm curious, in what way does the vodka influence the flavour? Does the sauce really taste a little bit like vodka? Or does it make the sauce spicy?

    • #
      handleheat — May 11, 2011 at 12:36 am

      Thanks for your comment! The sauce doesn't taste like vodka, it just has a bit of a kick that hits the back of your throat.

      • #
        kawaiikitchen — May 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm

        Thank you for the answer 😉 That sounds delicious, I'll definitely have to try this recipe!

  16. #
    Daniel — May 10, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    What a coincidence! I went to an italian restaurant on saturday and had an amazing penne with vodka! But instead of tomato sauce, it was a creamy white sauce with shrimp! So so good! Now I'll have to make this recipe. Thanks!

  17. #
    Cookie — May 10, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I've never made vodka sauce before and this sounds like the perfect recipe to start with. Thanks!

  18. #
    The Sweets Life — May 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Vodka Penne is one of the first “real meals” I learned how to make. I can't believe I haven't posted it on my blog! Yours looks yummy!

  19. #
    Maris — May 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    There is nothing better then a delicous dish of pasta with a nice salad and crusty bread! This looks like the perfect pasta dish!

  20. #
    Flavia — May 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Looks delicious! This is one of my favorite pasta dishes.

  21. #
    Erin — May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Mmm I love a good vodka sauce!

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