Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken

This Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken is loaded with perfectly seared chicken, chunky tomatoes, and a creamy marinara vodka sauce. It’s topped with Parmesan Shavings and fresh parsley and is a classic family favorite! 

Penne Pasta w/Tomato Sauce in a White Bowl with Two Rolls in Background

Penne Alla Vodka is one of those meals that has a reputation for being fancy, but it’s actually really easy to make. It falls under ‘easy weeknight meal’ status for sure. If you don’t add chicken, it’s even quicker, but, the sauce won’t be as flavorful. Searing chicken in the skillet prior to making the sauce as a ton of flavor to the sauce. All of the beautiful brown flecks of chicken get deglazed by the vodka and every bite is restaurant quality. So let’s get into my seared chicken obsession:

What Does it Mean to Sear Chicken?

Searing chicken is the process of cooking it in a hot skillet until the surface area of the chicken develops a crispy browned crust.

-This makes the chicken more visually appealing as it adds greater depth of brown on the outside.

-It also creates a differentiation in texture between the softer inside of the chicken vs. the crisp outside.

-The brown flecks of cooked chicken left in the skillet adds excellent flavor to the rest of the dish when the same skillet is used.

Chicken Seared in a pan

How to Make Perfectly Seared Chicken:

✔️Cast iron skillets conduct heat very well and are perfect to use when searing meat.

✔️Medium-high heat works well for searing, and it’s important to use oil with a high smoke point such as vegetable, canola, or peanut oil to prevent the meat from burning.

✔️It’s important to refrain from moving the meat around as it cooks. Allowing the meat to stay in the same place in the skillet ensures that the sear isn’t disrupted. You’ll notice that the chicken starts to release from the surface when it’s ready. If it’s sticking a lot to the pan, it’s not done searing.

✔️Butterfly the chicken and cut the seam to create two thinner slices of equal size. This will allow them to cook evenly and prevent them from being too thick.

✔️Don’t be afraid to season that meat and really get some flavor on there! Some of it will flavor the pan itself which will work it’s way into the sauce that you’ll cook in the same pan.

Butter melting and onions cooking in a pan

☝️ Can you just look at all of that brown deliciousness up there? That is what makes this sauce amazing.

Can I Freeze the Leftovers?

-Penne Alla Vodka sauce freezes very well, so I recommend keeping the sauce and the pasta separate if you plan on freezing any leftovers. You can then make fresh pasta when you reheat the frozen sauce.

-To freeze, simply place the cooled sauce in an airtight container. It’s best if used within three months.

How Long can I Store this in the Fridge?

-This meal is best if eaten with five days of refrigeration.

Penne Alla Vodka Dinner in moody lighting with wooden table and white plates

You can also serve this with breaded chicken and a side of ciabatta bread!

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5 from 8 votes
Servings: 4
Penne Alla Vodka
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
35 mins
Author: Stephanie
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Penne Alla Vodka

This Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken is loaded with chunky tomatoes and a creamy marinara vodka sauce. It's topped with Parmesan Shavings and fresh parsley and is a classic family favorite! 

  • 1 lb. Penne
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1 boneless/skinless chicken breast large in size
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons butter separated
  • 1 onion diced (small/medium in size)
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes drained
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • fresh parsley to garnish
  1. Prepare the penne according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.*
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium-high heat.
  3. Butterfly the chicken breast and cut the seam to create 2 thinner slices, each about an inch thick. Season the chicken with desired amounts of salt and pepper.
  4. Carefully lower the chicken into the preheated skillet and leave it untouched for several minutes while it gets a nice, crisp sear. This takes about 5-7 minutes or so.

  5. Once the chicken begins to release a bit from the bottom of the pan, it’s ready to flip. Rotate the oil around in the pan to help it loosen if needed. Make sure it has a nice golden-brown color prior to flipping. You may need to decrease the heat slightly while the other side sears.
  6. Once done, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting it up. Leave the oil and chicken remnants in the pan as it will give the sauce added flavor.

  7. In the same pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and use a spatula to release some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the diced onions and cook until they have softened and begin to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  9. Add the vodka to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to low and add the diced tomatoes and marinara sauce, then stir in the heavy cream.
  11. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan and stir into the sauce.

  12. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and add the final Tablespoon of butter. Add in the pasta* (see notes) and use a silicone spatula to stir until the penne is evenly covered.
  13. Top with Parmesan, chopped parsley and serve!

Recipe Notes

*If you plan on freezing leftovers, it's best to keep the sauce and pasta separated so that you can freeze the leftover sauce for a later meal, it reheats better than freezing the pasta and the sauce together. I like to make fresh pasta to go with the sauce that I froze. 

-To save time, I like to boil the pasta while the chicken sears.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 973, Fat: 34g, Saturated Fat: 20g, Cholesterol: 115mg, Sodium: 1191mg, Potassium: 1209mg, Carbohydrates: 103g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 14g, Protein: 29g, Vitamin A: 38.3%, Vitamin C: 30.1%, Calcium: 27.4%, Iron: 24.8%
This Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken is loaded with perfectly seared chicken, chunky tomatoes, and a creamy marinara vodka sauce. It's topped with Parmesan Shavings and fresh parsley and is a classic family favorite! | The Cozy Cook | #penne #vodkasauce #pasta #comfortfood #dinner