October 4, 2021

Penne Alla Vodka

How to make a rich and creamy penne alla vodka.

Since my “assistant” AKA my friend who is more than merely an assistant, whom I give plenty of credit for getting us to where we are now. Alex Vollono is Italian, and we wanted to learn more about our culture’s dishes.

For starters, penne alla vodka was making my mouth water, particularly because he introduced me to one of the restaurants he formally worked at (Bella’Gio in Cheshire, CT), who had an unbelievable version!

It’s probably safer that it is a bit away, because their’s is addicting! However, now curiosity is taking over and we chose to try for oursleves!

If you’d like to follow along, please be our guests and continue scrolling!

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This recipe is certainly not traditional, and by no means are we claiming it to be. This version is rich and creamy, and will get plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s though!

Penne Alla Vodka

SERVES: 8-12

Vodka Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced (more or less depending on your love for garlic haha!)
  • 3/4 cup vodka (more or less depending on taste preference)
  • 28 oz. can San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (you can omit if you prefer no heat at all)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt (depending if using prosciutto or not, and how salted the pasta water is)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot to medium heat and add the butter and onions. Cook until softened and just before caramelized (about 15 minutes). Add the pancetta and garlic, and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant.
  2. Next, turn off the heat and pour in the vodka. Allow the pan to finish sizzling before turning the heat back to medium (this is to avoid fire). Cook for another 1-2 minutes or just until the vodka begins to reduce and evaporate. Add the tomatoes, stir, and reduce the heat to low, then loosely cover with a lid, and simmer for 60 minutes (this allows the flavors to merge.)
  3. Afterwards, add the heavy cream, cheese, and the red pepper flakes (optional) to the sauce. Transfer to a high speed blender or food processor, then puree until silky smooth. Season to taste.

Penne Alla Vodka Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. penne rigate
  • Vodka Sauce
  • 4 Tbs cold, unsalted butter

Penne Alla Vodka Method:

  1. Cook the penne rigate in salted pasta water, to just under al dente, according to the package instructions. (It will continue to cook in the following steps.)
  2. Drain, then combine with the sauce and add the cold butter. Mix and simmer for another 10 minutes or until thoroughly coated and sticks to the pasta. (The cold butter helps to control over-cooking the pasta.)
  3. Finally, remove from heat, share, and enjoy!


  • I prefer to make the vodka sauce and divide in half. I save half for another time and use the other half immediately.
  • Whole plum tomatoes work too, though the San Marzano variety are grown in Italy and have a sweeter, less acidic bite to them… because let’s be real, we want that bite from the vodka instead!
  • Unlike regular penne, penne rigate is a version that is ridged and sturdier, which means it can soak up more sauce. You can use less pasta if you prefer it saucier.
  • Cook your pasta just before “al dente.’ Though most cooks already know this, it does not hurt to repeat. “Al dente,” which translates to “with a bite” in Italian, pasta is still firm yet cooked. Since the pasta finishes in the sauce it will continue to cook.
  • Don’t skip the step of tossing pasta with the sauce! This is called “marrying the sauce” and it is KEY because it helps the sauce cling to the pasta. I cannot stress enough what a difference this makes to pastas!
  • To make vegan, sub the butter for salted vegan butter and omit the prosciutto and cheese. Instead of heavy cream, soak 3/4 cup cashews in 1 cup boiling water for at least 30 minutes, then process in a high-speed blender until silky smooth to create a cashew cream. You can add 2 Tbs nutritional yeast to blend with the cashews for an added “cheesy” depth. Enjoy!
  • For more delicious recipes to create or pair alongside, visit the Kitchen Journal.