Penne Vodka Sauce takes the best flavors from cream and tomato sauce and blends them together! Made with heavy cream, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, herbs, and spices, it’s comforting and delicious.
The whole family is going to love this simple and flavorful pasta dish that’s ready in less than 30 minutes.
Introducing one of my favorite pasta sauce recipes! It’s known by many names: Penne Alla Vodka, Pasta Alla Vodka, or plain and simple Vodka Sauce.
But whatever you call it, this recipe has all the creamy, tomato-y, garlicky flavor that you love about Italian-American food.
So next time you’re looking to add some pizzazz to your pasta, this homemade vodka sauce will kick the jarred stuff to the curb.
Vodka Sauce Ingredients
Vodka Sauce recipe can vary slightly, but they always have 4 key ingredients: Tomatoes, Vodka, Italian Herbs, and Cream. I personally think this is one of the best out there! I love the addition of shallots and butter and Parmesan cheese for an even more flavorful sauce!
- Olive oil – Used to sautee the shallots, garlic, and red pepper, plus add richness to the sauce.
- Tomato paste – This ingredient adds flavor and acts as a thickening agent.
- Vodka – A key ingredient in vodka sauce! It’s used to deglaze the pan and releases flavors from the other ingredients.
- Crushed tomatoes – Use to make this a scrumptious cream-tomato sauce!
- Heavy cream – This ingredient helps build the rich creamy base of the sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese – Melted into the sauce, this adds flavor and creamy texture.
- Butter – This is melted with the cheese and helps everything combine smoothly.
- Herbs, spices, & aromatics – Shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes are sauteed in the olive oil for an infusion of flavor. Fresh basil is added just before serving.
How To Make Vodka Sauce:
- Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente and drain. Meanwhile, in a large pot or deep skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until caramelized.
- Add vodka to the pan to deglaze the bottom. Then add in the crushed tomatoes and simmer until reduced, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and add in the butter, cheese, cream, and salt and stir until the cheese and butter have melted.
- Finally, add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does vodka do in pasta sauce?
The alcohol in vodka releases unique flavors from the tomato ingredients. This is also why wine is also used in cooking!
Is vodka sauce alcoholic?
Yes, note that some alcohol will still remain in the sauce, even after cooking. However, some of it will be cooked off – you probably won’t get tipsy from eating it for dinner.
How long is vodka cream sauce good for?
If refrigerated, leftovers should be good for 3-4 days.
Is there a substitute for vodka?
You can deglaze the pan with water but it won’t be a vodka sauce without it. You can also use wine, but this will change the flavor quite a bit.
This homemade pasta sauce is super tasty, but if you’re looking to change the recipe up a bit, here are some ideas for how to do so.
Substitutions & Variations:
- Substitute shallots – In a pinch, you can add onions instead of shallots.
- Pasta – While penne is traditionally served with vodka sauce, you can pretty much use whatever type of pasta you want. However, it’s best to use short pasta with ridges such as Cavatappi, penne, or rigatoni. I also like farfalle (bowties), ziti, and rotelle (pinwheels) with this sauce.
- Whole Tomatoes: Whole canned tomatoes may also be used but you’ll want to run them through a food processor before adding or use an immersion blender once added to the pan.
More Pasta & Sauce Recipes:
- Marinara – This rich tomato sauce is a versatile classic.
- Alfredo – A guaranteed family favorite that’s surprisingly easy to make!
- Pomodoro sauce – This flavorful tomato sauce is full of herbs and spices.
- Best Ever Mac & Cheese – Macaroni drenched in a creamy cheese sauce that everyone will love!
- Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce – Filled with ground beef, this recipe is especially hearty.
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- 1 lb penne pasta cooked and drained
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 4 ounces vodka
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes San Marzano for best flavor
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 teaspoon salt more to taste
- Fresh basil
- Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than cooking time indicated on the package, drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook until softened, stirring constantly so as not to burn. Add in the tomato paste until it starts to caramelize, stirring constantly, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the vodka and scrape all the dark bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and simmer until reduced, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add in heavy cream, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, butter, and salt and stir until the cheese has melted, simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove the sauce from heat and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring so all pasta is evenly coated. Serve with parmesan cheese and basil.
- The sauce is good for 4 to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- Best to use a short pasta with ridges such as Cavatappi, penne, or rigatoni.
- Whole canned tomatoes may also be used but you’ll want to run them through a food processor before adding or use an immersion blender once added to the pan.