Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1 lb dry penne pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup tomato purée
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup vodka
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated + more for garnish
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Fresh basil


Boil the penne according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a pot over medium heat, and add the garlic and shallot and cook until the shallot is just translucent, about three minutes. Add the vodka and stir to combine well. Cook for another three minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine well. Add the tomato purée and heavy cream and reduce heat to medium low. Bring the sauce up to a mild simmer, then add the red pepper flakes, oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium low heat for another 20 minutes to let the flavors meld together. Next, stir in the parmesan cheese. Fold in the cooked pasta and top with fresh basil and more parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

This recipe was a request, and I was happy to oblige because it’s such a simple meal to put together. As I was shopping for ingredients, I wondered if I really had to buy a whole bottle of vodka to make penne alla vodka - is it actually necessary or is it superfluous? 

The answer is, yes, you do need to add vodka to make penne alla vodka, and the reasons are science-based. When you first add the vodka to the oil/butter/allium mixture, you’ll notice that the vodka reduces fairly quickly and actually thickens. That’s because the alcohol is a good emulsifier, and combines effortlessly with the oil. Next, the tomato aromas and flavors are more pronounced in this sauce. This is because the alcohol really does bring out the flavors of the tomato. The alcohol carries the aromas of food directly to your nose, allowing you to sense more complex flavors. This article from Fine Cooking explains alcohol’s role in cooking.


Simple, creamy, and intensely tomato flavored.

Recipe Attempts

This recipe has been attempted by the author 1 time(s).