Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka is easier to make than you might think. Simmer butter, vodka, tomatoes, and cream together, then stir in cheese and noodles!

All you need for an incredible home cooked meal is tender pasta, a delicious homemade sauce, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

This penne alla vodka is simple enough for a weeknight dinner but luxurious enough to impress dinner guests as well!

You might also love my creamy Jack Daniel’s Mac and Cheese. The dish is loaded with bits of peppered bacon and plenty of smoky flavor from the whiskey. Or, try pasta with pumpkin sauce for a lighter, alcohol-free alternative.

If you prefer your liquor in a glass, I have plenty of cocktails to choose from - even jello shots made with flavored varieties!

Penne Alla Vodka in a cast iron skillet with a spoon

Penne Alla Vodka - Tips and Tricks

  • Swap out the pasta. This is just as delicious with rigatoni, cavatappi, or any other noodle with ridges to catch that amazing sauce! 
  • Include a protein. Chicken pairs perfectly with the flavors in this dish and is a great way to make it a complete meal. Use leftover shredded meat or chop up a rotisserie bird from the store. For a vegetarian alternative, try sauteed mushrooms instead.
  • Add some garlic! Mince 2 to 3 cloves and saute them in the melted butter until fragrant before adding the vodka.
  • Use high quality liquor. It adds noticeable flavor to the vodka cream sauce, so I would recommend using top shelf or your favorite brand.
  • Too much sauce? This recipe makes plenty for a full pound of pasta, but you could easily use up to two pounds for a lighter coating on your noodles. Or, save some to spoon over ravioli or tortellini. You could even use it for lasagna!
Penne Alla Vodka ingredients

Serving Suggestions

Add a basket of thick, crusty bread to the table - you’ll need it to mop up every last drop!

Roasted vegetables or a simple green salad will round out the meal, and they can be prepared while this dish cooks on the stove.

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
  • Wide Skillet - The extra surface space helps the sauce to cook more evenly.
  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta 
  • Box Grater - As much as I love buying packaged shreds because it’s easier, freshly grated cheese melts down so much smoother and tastes better too.
  • Whisk - These have held up for over 10 years and are still as good as the day I bought them.
vodka cream sauce with match over top

FAQ - Common Recipe Questions

How long does penne alla vodka last in the refrigerator?

Refrigerate any leftovers in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stove for best results, adding additional cream as needed.

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

If needed, you can prepare the sauce the day before and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Simply warm it on the stove while you boil the noodles, then combine as directed.

vodka cream sauce with Parmesan cheese on top

Is there alcohol in vodka cream sauce?

Yes - aside from adding plenty of flavor, it’s actually what binds everything together! That’s because the alcohol keeps the cream from separating when you stir in the acidic tomato paste.

Then, it’s cooked off as the mixture simmers on the stove so you won’t feel the effects later.


penne alla vodka in a cast iron skillet on table

With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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penne alla vodka being served

Yield: 4-6
Author: Donna Elick
Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka is easier to make than you might think. Simmer butter, vodka, tomatoes, and cream together, then stir in cheese and noodles!
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 30 MinTotal time: 35 Min


  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces vodka
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound dry penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, (divided)
  • Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, (for garnish)


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the stick of butter.
  2. When butter is completely melted, add the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds. Add the vodka while whisking constantly to combine.
  3. Still cooking over medium heat, hold a lit match to the top of the butter/vodka sauce until it catches fire. The flame will run across the whole top of the sauce and then burn out on its own.
  4. Whisk in tomato paste and heavy cream. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until there is no longer a bitter after-taste from the vodka. This will ensure no alcohol remains in the sauce and will leave you with a rich, signature sauce.
  5. Meanwhile: boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Cooked until al dente or desired doneness.
  6. Drain pasta.
  7. Add 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese to the finished sauce and whisk until smooth.
  8. Add drained pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce.
  9. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.


1. This makes a thick, rich and creamy sauce.  Plenty of  sauce for a full pound of pasta.

2. The vodka does add flavor to the sauce, so I would recommend using your favorite vodka or a high quality brand.

3. We love this with cooked & chopped chicken breast added in. We also love ground beef and onions. You can cook that in a separate pan and then stir it in once the pasta is done. 

4. The recipe is perfect doubled for to feed a crowd.

Penne Alla Vodka closeup

Originally published November 2021

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this but, it really is a basic Vodka Sauce with minimum flavors. It is a starter for a really good Vodka sauce for sure.


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