Skip the restaurant and make the best penne alla vodka with a key ingredient that makes all the difference. Perfect for fans of authentic Italian cuisine!

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Penne Alla Vodka! Skip the restaurant and make the best penne alla vodka with a key ingredient that makes all the difference. Perfect for fans of authentic Italian cuisine! |

About Penne alla Vodka

Today I’m bringing you one of my all-time favorite dishes:

The BEST penne alla vodka recipe I’ve ever made.

Yes, I did say the BEST – or at least, in my humble opinion, it totally is.

A little backstory: an old friend of mine and I had a favorite authentic Italian restaurant, and it was heavenly – great food, great environment, great employees. We visited this place so often they began gifting us free shots of limoncello before we left, which was the perfect ending to my favorite meal: penne alla vodka.

Then, the management changed. Everything changed.

The food quality dropped. The kind and considerate waitstaff was replaced with less likable staff. The entire environment shifted, and before long an old friend of mine refused to eat there. I feared I would never get to taste my precious pasta alla vodka again.

So, I resolved to learn to make it myself – and that’s exactly what I did. And, you guys, the results were phenomenal. You must try this at home.

What is penne alla vodka?

Penne alla pasta is a fantastic and authentic Italian cuisine that I love!. Like its name suggests, this is a pasta dish made with vodka and penne pasta, traditionally. Normally, it is prepared using heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and, sometimes meat like sausage or ground beef. This is a meatless recipe.

The secret to making a proper penne alla vodka is italian tomatoes.

Do not negotiate. This recipe is fine with canned ingredients – and you have to make sure you get Italian tomatoes.

Can penne alla vodka be made in advance?

Yes, it totally can!

How to Make Pasta in Advance:

  • Cook per package instructions, then let cool on the counter until cool enough to touch.
  • Drizzle olive oil (one tablespoon of oil for every eight ounces of pasta ) over the pasta and toss to coat. This prevents pasta from sticking.
  • Place your pasta into airtight containers and store it in the refrigerator.

This precooked pasta is only good for three to four days, so make sure to use it within that time. To reheat the pasta, drop the noodles into a pot of boiling water for one or two minutes.

To Make the Vodka Sauce in Advance:

  • Prepare the sauce as normal per recipe instructions, then let it cool on the counter for a bit.
  • Place the sauce in a sealed container and into the refrigerator.

Pasta sauce will keep for seven days in the refrigerator, as long as it is stored securely. To reheat, just put the vodka sauce back in a pot on a low to medium temperature and heat until the desired temperature is achieved.

How to make homemade vodka sauce with pasta.

How long is pasta and vodka sauce good for?

Once packed and stored in a sealed, airtight container, this dish should remain good in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Can homemade vodka sauce and pasta be frozen?

Yes, you can totally freeze this dish! But please note, the following instructions are for freezing the two components (the sauce and the noodles) separately.

How to Freeze Cooked Pasta:

  • Let pasta cool.
  • Drizzle olive oil (one tablespoon of oil for every eight ounces of pasta) over the pasta and toss to coat. This prevents pasta from sticking.
  • Transfer pasta to airtight containers or freezer bags. Make sure the container is sealed and secure.
  • Store up to two weeks.

How to Reheat Frozen Cooked Pasta:

  • Defrost frozen pasta in a colander in the sink by running cool water over it.
  • Place into boiling water for one or two minutes. You don’t want to overcook the pasta.
  • You can also place the pasta straight into a simmering sauce to have it properly heated. This would happen after the defrosting in the sink, though.

How to Freeze alla Vodka Sauce:

  • Prepare per recipe instructions, then let cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags.
  • Place in freezer.
  • Store up to six months.

Is there any alcohol content in this pasta and vodka sauce recipe?

The short answer to this question is that, yes, there is alcohol. The “vodka” in vodka sauce is true to form.

In fact, any dish made with alcohol can retain up to 85% alcohol content, depending on multiple factors such as the method of cooking, how much heat is used, and how long the food is left out, etc. Most people do not realize it would take up to three hours of cooking time to cook all of the alcohol out of a dish.

So, how much vodka is in vodka sauce?

This particular recipe uses about 1/4 cup of vodka and is simmered for 20 minutes. Once it is cooked, about 40% of the alcohol content will be burned off.

Do I have to use vodka?

If your goal is to make a vodka sauce, then yes, you will need to use some type of vodka. There isn’t an alcohol-free substitute.

Even if you’re not a fan of vodka, it would be worth trying it in a sauce like this. Vodka has a peppery and herbal taste that helps the sauce become super creamy and enhances the flavor of the tomato. You could try to substitute the vodka with other alcohols and wines, but be aware that they will give their own unique taste to the meal. You may end up with a completely different dish than you expected.

Notes & tips for this penne vodka recipe

  • You’ll need a trusty food processor for this penne vodka recipe. I bought the Ninja Blender System almost 10 years ago and it hasn’t failed me yet!
  • You do not have to use penne pasta. Other pastas – such as gnochhi, ravioli, and rigatoni – can be used in its place.
  • If you are using penne pasta, be aware that it is usually served al dente, which just means chewy. Cook for about 14 minutes in boiling water, making sure to stir every so often to prevent them from clumping together.
  • To get the “true” taste of vodka sauce, you’ll need to use  italian tomatoes. Trust me, I made the mistake of thinking that the type of tomato didn’t matter and I ruined our dinner because of it.

How to make penne alla vodka

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Cook pasta per package directions, then drain and set aside.

Step 2 – Add the Italian tomatoes to a food processor (or use a medium bowl and an immersion blender) and blend the tomatoes until nice and smooth. Set the tomatoes aside for now.

Step 3 – In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until golden and fragrant.

Step 4 – Add the blended tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the skillet, then stir, allowing the sauce to simmer for a few minutes. Pour in the vodka, then stir and let simmer.

Step 5 – Add butter, heavy whipping cream, and Parmesan cheese to the skillet, then stir until cheese has melted.

Step 6 – Fold the cooked pasta in with the vodka sauce and garnish with more Parmesan and parsley.

Step 7 – Serve and enjoy!

This post was originally published on January 4th, 2016. It was updated with new content on May 29th, 2019.

Recipe Details

Penne Alla Vodka! Skip the restaurant and make the best penne alla vodka with a key ingredient that makes all the difference. Perfect for fans of authentic Italian cuisine! |
3.89 from 95 votes

Penne alla Vodka

5 minutes prep + 25 minutes cook
858 kcal
Yields: 4 servings
Skip the restaurant and make the best penne alla vodka with a key ingredient that makes all the difference. Perfect for fans of authentic Italian cuisine!



  • Prepare penne per package instructions. Drain pasta and set aside.
  • While pasta cookes, add Italian tomatoes (and their liquid) to a food processor and pulse until sauce is smooth. Set aside.
  • Add extra-virgin olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic to skillet and cook until garlic is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Slowly pour tomato sauce into skillet, stirring to incorporate with the oil. Add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add vodka to tomato sauce and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add butter to sauce and stir until melted.
  • Pour in heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, stirring sauce well.
  • Fold in cooked penne pasta. If desired, continue to cook pasta for another 5 minutes so sauce clings to pasta.
  • Serve pasta immediately with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley as garnish.


Recipe lightly adapted from Epicurious.


Calories: 858kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 333mg | Potassium: 897mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 3080IU | Vitamin C: 37.1mg | Calcium: 282mg | Iron: 2.5mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Kelly

    Can I still make this without a food processor?

      • Deb


    • Zac

    This dish is so much better if you separately cook a couple chicken breasts with garlic, onion, salt and pepper and add while simmering at the end.

    • Fran

    I’m having a luncheon as a thank you to friends who have supported me since losing my an old friend of mine. I’m making it two days before. Can I freeze the sauce or just put in refrigerator and warm it day of luncheon and mix with pasta. Looks delicious

    • Susan

    Hi. Would love to make this, but I don’t have a food processor. Any suggestions? 🙂

      • Dennis

      I crush the tomato with my hands. I like the chunks!