Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken

This easy Penne Alla Vodka Recipe is made with perfectly seared chicken, chunky tomatoes, and the best creamy marinara sauce!

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

Overhead view of a large pot filled with penne alla vodka and with a wooden spoon.


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. Read on!

Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken

  • The chicken is what gives this sauce even more flavor than a meatless dish.
  • The flavor comes from searing the chicken in the pan first. The remaining brown flecks of chicken get deglazed by the vodka and every bite is restaurant quality.

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.

✔️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.

✔️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 the 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.

A collage of 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.

Freezing Penne Alla Vodka

  • Penne Alla Vodka sauce freezes very well and is best if used within 3 months.
  • I recommend that you keep 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, label it, and freeze.

Refrigerator Storage

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

What to Serve with Penne Alla Vodka

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

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5 from 1 vote
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 easy Penne Alla Vodka Recipe is made with perfectly seared chicken, chunky tomatoes, and the best creamy marinara sauce!

  • 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: 1915%, Vitamin C: 24.8%, Calcium: 274%, Iron: 4.5%
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