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    Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

    Published January 13, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This incredibly easy-to-prepare Penne Alla Vodka is one of the most flavorful kinds of pasta with penne pasta tossed in a tomato-vodka cream sauce. You will be blown away at these delicious this dish is.

    If you love pasta and exploring new flavors, you should try my Pasta Pomodoro or Pasta Carbonara.

    penne alla vodka in a bowl

    Penne Alla Vodka

    Penne alla vodka is a pasta dish featuring penne pasta tossed in a tomato and cream-based sauce with vodka. This pasta is the dish that made me fall in love with pasta. Since I was a kid, I only had spaghetti and meatballs. There are a few variations to this recipe depending on where you are eating it, and who is making it. Classically there will be pancetta, onions, and chiles in the sauce.

    The origins of this pasta are contested by a couple of different sources who claim they created the dish. First, Orsini restaurant in New York City claims they invented the dish in the 1970s. Second, a Columbia University graduate also said he made it in the 1980s. Then, finally, in Italy, there are two cookbooks written by Italian authors who say they created the vodka sauce. Regardless of where it came from, I can assure you, that you are in for a treat.

    Ingredients

    penne alla vodka ingredients
    • Tomatoes – I prefer to use whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, or freshly canned tomatoes,  that are then crushed by hand.
    • Pork – Pancetta is best to use. However, you can use guanciale, bacon, or prosciutto.
    • Onions – Yellow, white, or sweet onions will work.
    • Chiles – A spicy red pepper that is seeded, such as a Fresno or red finger pepper, will work.
    • Cheese – You can use pecorino Romano or Parmesan Reggiano.
    • Cream – Full fat heavy whipping cream is used in the sauce.
    • Oil – Always use a good expeller-pressed olive oil.
    • Pasta – Penne rigate or regular penne will work in this pasta recipe.
    • Vodka – You can use any brand of vodka

    How to Make Penne Alla Vodka

    Add the oil to a large saucepan over low to medium heat and heat it up for 1 to 2 minutes.

    adding oil to a pan

    Next, add the pancetta and cook until it becomes crispy and browned. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes.

    cooking pancetta in a pan

    Remove the pancetta and set it to the side.

    setting crisp pancetta to the side

    Add the onions to the pan with the hot oil and cook while frequently stirring until browned. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.

    caramelizing onions

    Next, add in the peppers and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.

    cooking onions and peppers

    Add the pancetta back to the pan and stir to combine.

    adding cooked pancetta to onions and peppers

    Turn the heat to low and deglaze with the vodka. Then, turn the heat up to medium.

    adding vodka to a pan with onions and pancetta

    Stir and cook the vodka until the amount of liquid is reduced to a few tablespoons.

    reducing vodka with onions, peppers, and pancetta

    Pour the tomatoes and cook for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. See the video for what to look for. Turn the heat off.

    cooking tomatoes

    Drop the penne pasta into a large pot of salted water and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until al dente.

    adding penne pasta to a pot of boiling water

    While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the tomato sauce and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Set aside.

    adding cream to a tomato sauce

    Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan.

    adding cooked penne pasta to a pan

    Add pecorino Romano cheese, fresh basil, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.

    basil and cheese

    You may need to add ½ cup of hot pasta water to help loosen up the pasta.

    adding hot pasta water to a pan

    Serve the pasta with additional cheese and crushed red pepper flakes

    adding penne alla vodka to a bowl

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten as soon as it is finished being made.

    How to Store: Cover the pasta and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will not freeze well.

    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of pasta to a medium-sized saucepot and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Heat over low to medium heat while stirring with a spoon until hot. Adjust seasonings and serve.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    Chef Notes + Tips

    • If you are using prosciutto, use 2 ounces instead of the full 4 with pancetta.
    • There is no substitute for vodka. If you can’t have alcohol or do not have access to it, skip it or deglaze with a tablespoon or two of water.
    • Substitute the fresh chiles with 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
    • Al dente means to the tooth. The pasta should be firm but not hard or chalky.
    • Cooking time can be saved if you drop the pasta while cooking the tomatoes.

    More Pasta Recipes

    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Video

    Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

    5 from 1 vote
    This incredibly easy-to-prepare Penne Alla Vodka is one of the most flavorful pastas out there with penne pasta tossed in a tomato-vodka cream sauce.
    Servings: 4
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • ¼ pound large diced pancetta
    • 1 peeled and small diced yellow onion
    • 1 seeded and small diced fresno pepper
    • ¼ cup vodka
    • 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • ½ cup shredded pecorino Romano cheese + more for garnish
    • 4 torn fresh basil leaves
    • 1 pound dry penne rigate
    • sea salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • Add the oil to a large saucepan over low to medium heat and heat it up for 1 to 2 minutes.
    • Next, add in the pancetta and cook it until it becomes crispy and browned. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes.
    • Remove the pancetta and set it to the side.
    • In the pan with the hot oil, add in the onions and cook while frequently stirring until browned. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
    • Next, add in the peppers and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
    • Add the pancetta back to the pan and stir to combine.
    • Turn the heat to low and deglaze with the vodka. Then, turn the heat up to medium.
    • Stir and cook the vodka down until the amount of liquid is reduced to a few tablespoons.
    • Pour in the tomatoes and cook for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid. See the video for what to look for. Turn the heat off.
    • Drop the penne pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until al dente.
    • While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the tomato sauce, along with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Set aside.
    • Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan.
    • Add in pecorino Romano cheese, fresh basil, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.
    • You may need to add in ½ cup of hot pasta water to help loosen up the pasta.
    • Serve the pasta with additional cheese and crushed red pepper flakes

    Notes

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten as soon as it is finished being made.
    How to Store: Cover the pasta and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will not freeze well.
    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of pasta to a medium-sized saucepot and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Heat over low to medium heat while stirring with a spoon until hot. Adjust seasonings and serve.
    If you are using prosciutto, use 2 ounces instead of the full 4 with pancetta.
    There is no substitute for vodka. If you can’t have alcohol or do not have access to it, skip it or deglaze with a tablespoon or two of water.
    Substitute the fresh chiles with 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
    Al dente means to the tooth. The pasta should be firm but not hard or chalky.
    Cooking time can be saved if you drop the pasta while cooking the tomatoes.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 932kcalCarbohydrates: 98gProtein: 26gFat: 45gSaturated Fat: 21gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 646mgPotassium: 800mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 1229IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 267mgIron: 4mg
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Italian