Penne Alla Vodka

Penne vodka

Welcome to Penne Perfection.

Simply put, this is the best Penne alla Vodka recipe I have ever tried. It is creamy, luscious, bursting with flavor and just a pinch spicy. It’s extremely craveable, it’s addicting, and you will eat too much. You will also be thanked profusely by your friends, family, guests or whomever you are cooking for. And you will be asked to make it again. Trust me on this- look no further. This is penne perfection.

Penne alla vodka recipe

Good Vs. Bad

Too often our experience with this Italian-American pasta dish is at a party, where it was made hours earlier by a catering deli or pizzeria, and served out of a steam tray. It often is made way too early or reheated and then we see the cream “break” which means it gets oily. Occasionally it will be made with flour or a roux to help resist the breaking and keep it thick- this isn’t the right thing to do. Sometimes Penne all Vodka will include sautéed onions and/or prosciutto, and even peas. Then there are the versions that don’t even get made with vodka- a main ingredient! This recipe is not that. This is the “real” recipe for Penne alla Vodka and it will ruin the catering version for you for the rest of days!

The Secret to the Sauce

The secret to this recipe is roasting the sauce in the oven for over an hour to develop deep flavors for the sauce base. This is a very different approach than most sauces which are made only on the stovetop. However, once you do it you will understand that the roasting makes a significant difference in the depth of flavor.

Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe can be made in advance by 1-2 days, up until the last step where you reheat slowly and add the cream and parmesan cheese. It can also be made and frozen up until the last steps as well.
  • This recipe doubles well.
  • This recipe is about the tomatoes, so don’t skimp on quality when choosing your canned tomatoes. Buy San Marzano if possible.

Recommended Ingredients & Equipment:

San Marzano canned tomatoes for Penne Vodka
San Marzano tomatoes are my favorite canned tomatoes. Packaging can vary.
le creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven
I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven to make this recipe

I like to serve Penne Alla Vodka with Roasted Sausage & Peppers. It’s a fabulous combination!

Roasted Sausage and Peppers Recipe
The combination of sausage, peppers and onions is a winning flavor explosion. These independently simple ingredients blend together and the results are simply delicious. Perfect for feeding a crowd too!
Penne vodka

Penne Vodka

Inspired by Ina Garten
Creamy, lucious & a bit of kick!
5 from 1 vote
Servings 4


  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Pierce the tomatoes over the sink, one by one, to let the water and seeds release from the tomatoes. This doesn’t have to be perfect. Add them to a bowl and set aside. When all the tomatoes are in a bowl, crush them with your hands. Again, this does not have to be perfect because they will eventually be processed in a blender. Reserve 1 cup of puree from the can of tomatoes.
  • Once the tomatoes are prepared, Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes & puree to the pan, add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper. Stir to combine. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
  • At this point you can set the sauce aside until ready to use, or use right away. When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency.
  • Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  • Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.


This sauce double wells. Sauce can be made in advance & frozen until the point where you add the cream and parmesan. 

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1 thought on “Penne Alla Vodka”

  1. Wow! We made this for Christmas Eve dinner and it was amazing! Incredible depth of flavor. Doubled the recipe and made in a dutch oven. Everyone asked to take home leftovers.


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