Penne Alla Vodka

This classic penne alla vodka recipe has a perfect blend of creamy marinara sauce and just the right amount of vodka. It’s easy to add chicken and makes a great freezer food!

Be sure to try my (best ever) Eggplant Parmesan recipe next!

Close up view of penne alla vodka in a white bowl topped with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

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.

Ingredients

  • Canned whole plum tomatoes- (or homemade canned garden tomatoes.)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Vodka- It’s important to know how much to add, (and why). See below.
  • Heavy Cream- Half and half may also be used
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Basil
  • Butter
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Parsley- to garnish
  • Penne

 

IMPORTANT: How Much Vodka to Use

When adding vodka to this sauce, less is more.

The role that vodka plays in this recipe is solely to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients. If you add too much, it will do the opposite and essentially them.

3-4 tablespoons is all you need.

Harold McGee, an expert on food chemistry & science explains “…at very low concentrations, around 1% or less, alcohol actually enhances the release of fruity esters and other aroma molecules into the air.”


Adding Chicken

  • To serve with chicken, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  • Add olive oil and sear the meat in the pot first, then remove and set aside once cooked through.
  • The remaining brown flecks of chicken left in the pot are deglazed by the vodka when you prepare the sauce which gives it great flavor.
  • Stir the chicken back into the sauce just before adding the pasta.

A white bowl with a spoon full of penne alla vodka.

Freezing Penne Alla Vodka

  • This sauce freezes very well and is best if used within 3 months.
  • I recommend that you freeze the sauce only, and boil fresh pasta for serving.
  • To freeze, simply place the cooled sauce in an airtight container, label it, and freeze.

Meal Prep Tip: Double this recipe and freeze the sauce for easy weeknight dinners! Note that doing so will require additional cooking time for the sauce to simmer and fully thicken.


Refrigerator Storage

-This meal is best if eaten with 3-4 days of refrigeration.


What to Serve with Penne Alla Vodka

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Overhead view of a white bowl full of penne alla vodka with dinner rolls in the background.

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5 from 1 vote

Penne Alla Vodka

Servings:
4
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
1 hr
Total Time:
1 hr 10 mins
 

This classic penne alla vodka recipe has a perfect blend of creamy marinara sauce and just the right amount of vodka. It's easy to add chicken and makes a great freezer food!

Ingredients
  • 28 oz. whole plum tomatoes undrained
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Tablespoons vodka
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons cold butter
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. Penne
  • Fresh parsley roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese finely grated
Instructions
  1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender, food mill, or an immersion blender and set aside. You can decide how chunky or uniform you’d like the tomatoes to be.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced garlic and the basil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and softened.
  3. Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the vodka to the pan and let it sizzle. Turn the heat back to medium and reduce the vodka until there is about a Tablespoon left.
  5. Add the pureed tomatoes and let it simmer for 45 minutes or so, allowing it to reduce and become quite thick.
  6. During the last 12 minutes or so, cook the penne according to package instructions. For saucier pasta, use ¾ lb. instead of the full pound. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

  7. Add the heavy cream and the red pepper flakes to the sauce.

  8. Add 2 Tablespoons cold butter to the sauce, along with 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir to combine.

  9. Season with salt/pepper if desired.
  10. Add in the drained pasta.

  11. Garnish with roughly chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese and serve!
Recipe Notes

Meal Prep Tip: Double this recipe and freeze the sauce for easy weeknight dinners!


Note: Don't be tempted to add more vodka than the recipe calls for, doing so will ruin the flavors instead of enhancing them. (Very important.)


 

Nutrition Information
Calories: 711, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 80mg, Sodium: 183mg, Potassium: 305mg, Carbohydrates: 87g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 3g, Protein: 18g, Vitamin A: 1054%, Vitamin C: 1%, Calcium: 131%, Iron: 2%
Author: Stephanie
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Penne Alla Vodka
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