Easy Penne alla Vodka Recipe (with the Best Sauce)

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Penne alla vodka is easier to make than you might think. Simmer butter, vodka, tomatoes, and cream together, then stir in cheese and noodles! This has the best flavor, and is a great recipe for the whole family to enjoy. You’ll love this tender penne pasta recipe! 

titled (shown in casserole dish) penne alla vodka


Not only is this penne pasta al dente perfection, but the homemade pasta sauce is crave-worthy, too.

It literally tastes like it came from the local Italian restaurant – and like legit Italian food! 

Adding a splash of vodka takes traditional recipes and turns them into a unique recipe with delicious flavor.

bowls of ingredients for vodka cream sauce

Penne Alla Vodka

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

Pasta dinners like this are the best. 

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!

vodka cream sauce with match over top


This easy recipe only needs to simple ingredients listed below.

You’ll love how quick and easy this Penne Alla Vodka Recipe is. (and wait until you get a taste of the creamy homemade vodka sauce!) 

  • Salted butter
  • Garlic, minced
  • Vodka
  • Tomato paste
  • Heavy cream
  • Penne pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Flat leaf Italian parsley
adding tomato paste to pan for penne alla vodka


Add other seasonings and flavors. Fresh basil is a great flavor to add to this creamy sauce.

You can also add black pepper, fresh oregano, and any other fresh herbs that you crave and love. 

Add fresh tomatoes. Whole tomatoes that are diced and added are perfect for adding a fun flavor and texture.

Even picky eaters will love the extra added tomato taste. 

Add chopped onions. Simple recipes like this can easily be altered with substitutions. If you’re a fan of onions, add them to make your new favorite dish. 

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 chicken from the store. For a vegetarian alternative, try sauteed mushrooms instead.

    Italian sausage is also a great flavor to add and really does complement the flavor of the sauce. 
  • 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 sauce in skillet

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.

Penne Alla Vodka FAQ

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.

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. There really shouldn’t be a leftover vodka taste or flavor in the sauce of cooked pasta. The alcohol cooks out, leaving the creamy texture and flavor. 

penne alla vodka in a cast iron skillet on table

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pasta in vodka sauce being served

vodka sauce on penne pasta

Penne Alla Vodka

Donna Elick
Penne Alla Vodka is easier to make than you might think. This vodka sauce recipe uses fresh ingredients and makes an elegant Italian dish!
5 stars from 3 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Stovetop
Servings 4 – 6


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


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt two sticks of butter.
  • When butter is completely melted, add garlic. Saute for 30 seconds. Add vodka while whisking constantly to combine.
  • 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.
  • Whisk in tomato paste and heavy cream. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30-45 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.
  • Meanwhile: boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Cooked until al dente or desired doneness.
  • Drain pasta.
  • Add 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese to the finished sauce and whisk until smooth.
  • Add drained pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce.
  • Top with remaining parmesan cheese and garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

Donna’s Notes

This makes a thick, rich and creamy sauce. Plenty of sauce for a full pound of pasta.
The vodka does add flavor to the sauce, so I would recommend using your favorite vodka or a high quality brand.
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.
The recipe is perfect doubled for to feed a crowd.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 1016cal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 31g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 761mg | Sugar: 10g | Fiber: 5g | Calcium: 200mg | Iron: 3mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled collage for vodka sauce recipe

Originally published November 2021, updated and republished December 2023

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  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.

  2. 5 stars
    I had never tried a vodka sauce before, but I loved how this turned out. Very creamy and rich. A filling and delicious dinner!

  3. 5 stars
    omg, just made this Penne Alla Vodka recipe from The Slow Roasted Italian and it was AMAZING! So creamy and flavorful. Definitely a new favorite in my house!

  4. 5 stars
    OMG, just whipped up this Penne Alla Vodka from Donna’s recipe and it was a breeze! Added some sautéed mushrooms for extra flavor, and it turned out amazing!

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