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Pasta alla Vodka Recipe

Bring the Italian restaurant to your humble abode with this easy pasta alla vodka!

Tender penne gets tossed with a luscious creamy vodka-infused tomato sauce. It’s a cozy date night dinner that’s simple to boot.

Pasta alla vodka garnished with parmesan cheese served on a white plate.
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Skip going out to an Italian restaurant tonight, and dine in with pasta alla vodka!

Easy Penne alla Vodka

Pasta alla vodka is an easy Italian recipe. I know the name sounds fancy. And yet, it’s a simple dish you can whip up on a weeknight.

What makes it stand out is the sauce. It gets spiked with vodka and cream. Then, it’s finished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The vodka adds such a distinct flavor that’s unlike any other pasta sauce. But don’t worry, the alcohol cooks off.

Grab the garlic bread because you’ll want to sop up every drop!

Creamy pasta alla vodka in skillet.

Ingredients

This easy pasta alla vodka recipe calls for minimal ingredients. And yet, you get so much flavor!

Here’s everything you need:

  • Pasta – Penne is standard. You can use other shapes like rigatoni too.
  • Olive oil – Use a glug for sauteing the onions and the garlic.
  • Onion – I recommend using yellow onions or sweet onions.
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic makes the sauce more aromatic and complex.
  • Red pepper chili flakes – Just a pinch for a kick.
  • Vodka – You can’t have pasta alla vodka without it! Any brand will do. Also, the vodka cooks off, so you don’t get a strong alcohol flavor.
  • Canned tomatoes – Crushed canned tomatoes create a robust tomato sauce.
  • Salt and pepper – Add as much or as little as you like.
  • Heavy cream – For making the sauce rich and creamy.
  • Parmesan cheese – Use freshly grated Parmesan for the pasta plus more for garnishing.
  • Fresh basil – Fresh basil ties the whole thing together! It adds some much-needed freshness to this rich dish.
Penne pasta with cream vodka tomato sauce served on a white plate garnished with chopped parsley leaves.

How to Make Pasta alla Vodka

Homemade pasta sauce and dinner all ready in 40 minutes? Yes, it can be done! And it’s super easy.

Here’s how to make pasta alla vodka:

1. Cook the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

2. Saute the aromatics. Saute the onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute.

3. Make the sauce. Add the vodka to the garlic and onion. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Toss the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to evenly coat. Add pasta water if desired. Cook for 2 minutes.

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5. Add the cream and cheese. Lower the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.

6. Serve. Portion out the pasta. Garnish with Parmesan and basil. Enjoy!

Pasta alla vodka served on a white plate garnished with basil leaves.

Tips for Success

Pasta alla vodka is an easy meal with a big Italian flavor. Follow these tips and it gets even better!

  • Say goodbye to the booze. Don’t have vodka? Want a non-alcoholic version? Substitute the vodka with chicken broth or water. Just note the dish won’t have the same distinct flavor
  • Take an easy shortcut. Want to get dinner on the table quicker? Prep the sauce 1 day in advance. When ready to serve, reheat it on the stove while cooking the pasta.
  • Be careful with the vodka! The vodka may flame up when you add it to the skillet. So use caution!
  • Get grating. Freshly grated Parmesan melts better than pre-shredded. And it has a much better flavor than shelf-stable Parmesan.
  • Make it a meal. This dish pairs wonderfully with a crisp salad. You could also add your favorite bread for a complete meal. I’m a big lover of garlic bread myself!

Recipe Variations

Want to customize this recipe? No problem! Here are some scrumptious variations:

  • Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka – Top it with garlic shrimp or shrimp scampi.
  • Veggie Pasta alla Vodka – Add chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms to the sauce. They add extra flavor and nutrients.
  • Mozzarella Pasta alla Vodka – Some freshly grated mozzarella would make it extra ooey-gooey!
  • Spicy Vodka Pasta – Gigi Hadid’s version is very similar. Except it calls for tomato paste, more garlic, butter, and extra red pepper chili flakes.
Pasta alla vodka garnished with parsley leaves on a white plate.

How to Store Leftovers

Leftover pasta alla vodka is excellent for an easy lunch or quick dinner.

However, I don’t recommend freezing it. The cream doesn’t freeze well and the pasta will become soggy when thawed.

To Store: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To Reheat: Reheat gently on the stove, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of pasta water or milk to loosen the sauce if needed.

More Pasta Recipes

Easy Pasta Carbonara
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Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
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Chicken Florentine Pasta

Pasta alla Vodka

Course: Main CourseCuisine: Italian
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

25

minutes
Total time

40

minutes

Pasta alla Vodka is a restaurant-worthy dish no one can resist! The creamy, tomato-Parmesan sauce is so delicious tossed with tender penne pasta.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pasta (penne or rigatoni)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

  • 1/2 cup vodka

  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking for another minute until fragrant.
  • Pour the vodka into the skillet and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Be careful as the vodka may flame up.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  • Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta evenly, adding a bit of reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
  • Cook for 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce.
  • Lower the heat and stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese until the sauce is smooth and the pasta is well coated.
  • Divide the pasta among plates. Garnish with fresh basil and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Pasta alla vodka.

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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