Penne Alla Vodka

by Tarek Moubarak



Penne alla vodka is one of those simple recipes that has minimal ingredients but is just so delicious and satisfying!
This easy Pasta alla Vodka recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner with an easy and creamy tomato and vodka sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese and ready in only 45 minutes!


  • 12 ounces dried penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • half a medium red onion (peeled and finely diced)
  • 6 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 can plum tomatoes or 3 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes (not drained)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup torn or julienned fresh basil leaves (divided)
  • grated parmesan cheese


  1. Heat a large stockpot of generously-salted water. Once you reach step 5 below, add the pasta to the salted water and cook al dente according to package instructions.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add red onion, and saute for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and continue sauteing for 1-2 more minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add vodka, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the sauce has reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low, and continue simmering for about 20-30 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by almost half.
  5. Stir in the heavy cream and half (1/4 cup) of the basil. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce continue to simmer until the pasta has cooked.
  6. Once the pasta is ready, return it to the stockpot and pour the sauce on top. Toss the pasta until it is evenly coated with the sauce.
  7. Serve immediately, garnished with the extra basil and Parmesan cheese.

Tips for penne alla vodka:

  • Make sure you let the sauce simmer for long enough so that the alcohol will cook off. If you don’t cook the sauce for long enough, you may end up with a harsh aftertaste from the alcohol.
  • Crush tomatoes fine for a smoother, less chunky sauce. If preferred you could even blitz them in a food processor.
  • Don’t use dried herbs or bottled garlic. These fresh ingredients really help make this vodka sauce perfect.
  • This dish is great as is, but you can add in other ingredients to make it your own such as Italian sausage, meatballs, zucchini, mushrooms or olives.
  • We used vodka because it is tasteless and odorless. Or rather, it is tasteless and odorless besides the taste and smell of alcohol. This means that the recipe can get all of the benefits of the alcohol– the bitterness that enhances the spices, the sugars and bite that balance the tomatoes, and on a molecular level, the bonding between fats and liquids that create a fuller, more intensely flavored sauce– without any muddling or undesired addition