This recipe post has been updated on November 29, 2021
This is a recipe and technique for Penne with Vodka Sauce. It combines tomatoes, vodka, olive oil, cream, and spices to create a delicious dish. The alcohol in vodka creates a reaction with the tomato acids to make a smooth- tasting sauce.
To make this dish you will need:
- Olive oil
- Fresh garlic cloves
- Oregano, both dried and fresh
- Red pepper flakes
- San Marzano canned tomatoes
- Parmesan cheese
- Penne pasta, or other pasta of your choice
- Salt and black pepper
Other types of pasta to use as a substitute for penne would be rotini, fusili, rigatoni, or ziti.
Making Vodka Sauce
I did a little research to see where this tomato and vodka combination came from. One of the more popular notions is that the vodka producers wanted the Italians to use more vodka rather than wine as a cooking additive. This became Penne alla Vodka. Whatever the reason, I know that it is a very nice alternative to your normal Italian marinara.
I’ve always had vodka sauce from a jar. There is no comparison to the homemade sauce though. The freshly made stuff is really good and silky tasting.
This recipe requires baking, so it takes some time to prepare, but definitely worth it. Use an oven-safe skillet and remember that the handle is hot and stays hot. Even if you run cold water on it for a while. These lessons are learned the hard way!
This vodka sauce gets assembled on the stovetop and gets all the flavors concentrated in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes. This baking time just makes the olive oil and tomato base scream with flavor.
Once baked, carefully use a blender to puree, which is best done in batches. Add the sauce back to the pan and heat up again. Add in the cream and Parmesan cheese and this is just a silky, delicious sauce. The pre-cooked penne pasta is stirred in and it is ready to serve.
What to Serve with Penne alla Vodka
Some ideas for what to serve with the pasta:
- Good crusty Italian bread or breadsticks (try my French baguette recipe)
- Extra grated Parmesan cheese
- Caesar salad
- Roasted vegetables with garlic and Parmesan like green beans, broccoli, asparagus, or cauliflower.
Make penne with vodka sauce when you have some company. I’m sure they’ll love it.
And try these other pasta dishes:
- Tomato and Spinach Pasta with Spicy Shrimp
- Shrimp Mac and Cheese
- Perfectly Creamy Shrimp Scampi
- Shrimp Penne alla Vodka Sauce
PENNE WITH VODKA SAUCE
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 garlic cloves , coarsely chopped
- 1/2 sweet onion , chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 2 28 oz . cans peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes , crushed by hand to break up
- 2 tsp fresh oregano , finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup, and more for garnish)
- 1 tsp each salt and black pepper
- 1 pound penne pasta , cooked al dente according to package instructions
- Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large, high-sided oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium and add onions and garlic.
- Cook slowly 4 or 5 minutes.
- Add the dried oregano. crushed red pepper, tomatoes and, vodka. (Take care to add vodka without causing a flame). Bring to simmer, 5 minutes.
- Cover tightly and place in 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
- While the sauce is baking, boil the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Remove the sauce from the oven, add fresh oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Puree in a blender in batches by removing the filler cap on the lid and hold a kitchen towel over the lid to allow steam to escape. An immersion blender could also be used.
- Place the sauce back on the stove on medium heat, and stir in the cream and grated Parmesan.
- Add pasta, stir to combine.
- Serve hot and garnish with grated Parmesan
- You can substitute any other pasta shapes for the penne. Ziti, rotini, fusilli, or rigatoni would be fine.
- Recipe adapted from Ina Garten.