Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 bowls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
768 Calories
23g Fat
102g Carbs
30g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 768
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 8g 42%
Cholesterol 42mg 14%
Sodium 447mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 102g 37%
Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
Protein 30g
Calcium 295mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Penne alla vodka was a one-time popular pasta dish from the 1970s. While it fell out of favor for a little while, it's now a staple at both restaurants and homes—and you will absolutely love it.

The success of the dish comes from a thick rich tomato sauce with the addition of a little cream, butter, and vodka. The alcohol brings a lovely back note to the dish, but do avoid splashing the spirit around too much or you will overwhelm the sauce. Optional to the dish is a good sprinkling of chili, for those who like a further kick to the sauce.

Use a good quality vodka for this recipe—if it's not fit to drink, it is not fit to use in a recipe.


  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 1 small carrot (very finely chopped)
  • 1 stick celery (very finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans of good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 8 basil leaves (torn into small pieces)
  • 2 pounds penne rigate
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup good-quality vodka
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons chili flakes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Gently warm the olive oil in a large saucepan to medium-hot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, stir into the oil, and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a further 3 minutes.

  3. Add the cans of chopped of tomatoes and torn basil leaves, cooking over a gentle heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and all the vegetables have softened. You can make the sauce to this point ahead of time if you wish, then cool it and store until required.

  4. Warm the tomato sauce through until it is just gently bubbling, stir in the heavy cream, keep the sauce on a very low heat while you cook the pasta.

  5. Cook the penne according to the packet instructions, but stop two minutes befroe the recommended cooking time. Use a large volume of rapidly boiling water with the sea salt added.

  6. Once cooked, drain the penne, then return it to the pan, add the vodka and butter and stir. Add the cooked, warm tomato sauce and toss together with the pasta.

  7. Serve immediately into hot bowls with a good sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a little black pepper, and chili flakes if you like a little heat.


  • This recipe calls for a reduction on recommended cooking times by a couple of minutes to prevent overcooking as the pasta will be reheated in the sauce before serving.

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