Pasta

Penne alla Vodka – Pasta with Tomato Vodka Sauce

March 17, 2020 (Last Updated: May 20, 2020) by Emily

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Penne alla Vodka is a super easy pasta recipe that’ll leave you licking your plate clean! It’s made with penne pasta tossed in a creamy tomato vodka sauce with garlic and pancetta. If a big bowl of comfort food is what you’re looking for then this is it!

An overhead shot of penne alla vodka in a rustic bowl with a glass of red wine at the side

This pasta sauce is INCREDIBLE!

I mean, it’s the type of meal you overeat because it’s just too good then you can’t move afterwards.

Uh-huh, I see you!

The creamy tomato sauce is just so rich and delicious and the vodka gives it the most incredible flavour.

Don’t worry, you will not get drunk by eating this pasta sauce, ha! And yes, that has been asked before.

In fact, if you’re not a fan of vodka I guarantee you will still love this recipe because I’m one of those people too.

Is Penna alla Vodka a traditional Italian dish?

Penne alla vodka is a recipe that was very popular in Italy back in the ’80s.

Apparently it was the ‘must-have’ dish and everyone raved about it…for a while.

The trend eventually died out, think of it like shrimp or prawn cocktail, ok it’s extremely retro but you can’t help but love it because well, it’s dee-licious!

Vodka is not a traditional ingredient in Italian pasta sauces and cream is rarely used especially in tomato based sauces.

I mean, I’d be surprised if you ever find this dish on any restaurant menu in Italy. Hey, if you do let me know!

The thing is, however retro or untraditional penne alla vodka may be, it’s still damn delicious and I know many Italians that would have no problem devouring the dish.

A close up of a fork picking up pasta with a tomato vodka sauce

How to make Penne alla Vodka – step by step

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente (usually 2-3 minutes less than packet instructions).

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and add the pancetta, fry for a couple of minutes until starting to brown, around 2-3 minutes (photo 1).

Next, add the garlic and shallot and saute until the shallot becomes translucent and garlic is fragrant (photo 2).

Step by step photos for making penne alla vodka

Stir the pureed tomatoes into the skillet and add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Let it simmer for 1 minute then reduce the heat to low (photo 3).

Add the cream and stir until thoroughly combined with the tomato. Once combined, add the vodka with a pinch of salt and pepper (photo 4).

Let the sauce simmer for 3-4 minutes or until you can no longer smell the vodka and the sauce has darkened slightly (photo 5).

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, add it to the sauce and toss to coat (photo 6).

Serving suggestions

If you’re looking for a little freshness then a simple side salad would be perfect served alongside this.

And if you want to go all out then hello, garlic bread!

How to make super quick garlic bread

Cut a loaf of crusty bread into slices without cutting all the way through so the loaf stays intact.

Mix half a cup of softened butter with one clove of minced garlic, 1 tsp of dried oregano and 1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes or a small pinch of fine salt.

Spread the butter mixture between the slices, wrap in foil and bake in the oven at (350F/180C) for around 15 minutes until warmed all the way through and melted.

Other ways to use this sauce

There’s a reason this creamy vodka sauce is so popular in the US, it’s just so addictively delicious but you don’t need to limit it to pasta.

Oh no, there are so many ways you can use this sauce from casseroles to meat dishes, here are some ideas;

A close of penne alla vodka in a rustic bowl

Top Tips for making Penne alla Vodka

  • No pancetta? you can use smoked bacon roughly chopped instead.
  • If you can’t get a good brand of tomatoes then you might need to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity, add it to taste.
  • It’s important to turn the heat to low before adding the cream or it might split. Don’t worry if it does, the sauce will look a little grainy but will still taste delicious.
  • If you don’t have penne pasta, no problem, use any pasta shape you like!
  • I don’t add any herbs to this recipe but if you want to add some then fresh basil or parsley would work well.
  • Make sure to reserve pasta water, this helps emulsify the sauce but also adds a lot of flavour.
  • You can make this sauce in advance keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in suitable containers.
  • Leftover pasta will keep for 1-2 days and can be eaten cold for lunch or made into a pasta salad.

More delicious and easy pasta recipes you might like;

If you’ve tried this Penne alla Vodka Recipe or any other recipe on the blog please let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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5 from 7 votes

Penne alla Vodka - Pasta with Tomato Vodka Sauce

Penne alla Vodka is a super easy pasta recipe that'll leave you licking your plate clean! It's made with penne pasta tossed in a creamy tomato vodka sauce with garlic and pancetta. If a big bowl of comfort food is what you're looking for then this is it!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 647kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup smoked pancetta cubed (100g)
  • 1 garlic clove , finely chopped
  • 1 shallot , finely chopped
  • 4 cups penne pasta (14 oz/400g)
  • 1.5 cup puréed tomatoes (passata) (400g)
  • 1/3 cup cream (80ml)
  • 1/3 cup vodka (80ml)
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (120ml)
  • salt and pepper to season
  • freshly grated parmesan for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to packet instruction until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large pan and add the pancetta, fry for a couple of minutes until starting to brown (2-3 minutes)
  • Next, add the garlic and shallot and saute until the shallot becomes translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  • Stir the pureed tomatoes into the skillet and add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Let it simmer for 1 minute then reduce the heat to low.
  • Add the cream and stir until thoroughly combined with the tomato. Once combined, add the vodka with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Let the sauce simmer for 3-4 minutes or until you can no longer smell the vodka and the sauce has darkened slightly. If the sauce reduces too much then add another splash of pasta water.
  • Once the pasta is cooked al dente, add it to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve with parmesan.

Notes

  • No pancetta? you can use smoked bacon roughly chopped instead.
  • If you can't get a good brand of tomatoes then you might need to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity, add it to taste.
  • It's important to turn the heat to low before adding the cream or it might split. Don't worry if it does, the sauce will look a little grainy but will still taste delicious.
  • If you don't have penne pasta, no problem, use any pasta shape you like!
  • I don't add any herbs to this recipe but if you want to add some then fresh basil or parsley would work well.
  • Make sure to reserve pasta water, this helps emulsify the sauce but also adds a lot of flavour.
  • You can make this sauce in advance keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in suitable containers.
  • Leftover pasta will keep for 1-2 days and can be eaten cold for lunch or made into a pasta salad.

Nutrition

Calories: 647kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 206mg | Potassium: 720mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 770IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 3mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela
    May 15, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    Well who knew! Vodka in pasta sauce! This may look like a simple little pasta dish, but oh my goodness the flavours are absolutely DELICIOUS!! What a revelation! Thank you!5 stars

  • Reply
    Michele
    December 23, 2019 at 1:03 am

    Thank you! This penne alla vodka is delicious!!!5 stars

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    August 2, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Nothing beats a great pasta dinner and a glass of wine on the weekend. Love the sounds of this delicious sauce. Easy entertaining with this dish too.5 stars

  • Reply
    Christine
    August 2, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    What a great dinner recipe! The sauce looks wonderfully creamy!5 stars

  • Reply
    Jeni @ Biscuits & Booze
    August 2, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I don’t like jarred sauces either but I have a friend who always makes pasta with jarred sauce whenever we come over and I try to get her to use the vodka sauce because it is a smidge better imo. Your recipe for it looks delicious though, and now I have a craving for the real thing! 🙂5 stars

  • Reply
    Christina Shoemaker
    August 2, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I love vodka sauce and your dish looks just perfect! Just the right amount of richness!5 stars

  • Leave a Reply






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