Vodka Sauce is a creamy, tomato-based sauce that has just the right amount of kick to go perfectly with pasta in this penne alla vodka dish. Try my Copycat Carbone’s Spicy Pasta recipe for another savory pasta dish with a creamy red sauce.

Vodka Sauce with Penne Noodles from Overhead in a Skillet

Vodka Sauce

Yes, there is vodka in this vodka sauce, and it is important. The vodka brings out more of a tomato flavor and aroma in the sauce, as well as makes it creamier. It also adds just a bit of heat to go along with the added red pepper flakes. The most common dish is penne alla vodka, but you could use any type of pasta noodles you have on hand.

Vodka Sauce with Penne Noodles Close up in Skillet

Vodka Sauce Recipe

This sauce is easy to put together and can be made in one dish. Just make sure you use a large enough skillet to add the pasta when ready.

Vodka Sauce in Pan with Parmesan and Noodles Being Added

How to Make Homemade Vodka Sauce

It is pretty easy to make this creamy sauce anytime you are craving it. To get started making this delicious pasta dish, cook the noodles per package directions. Be sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water to add to the dish later. Drain and rinse the noodles and set them aside as you prepare the sauce.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and diced shallot and cook for a few minutes, until soft. Next, add the tomato paste, cream, vodka, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook these ingredients together until heated through, about 7 minutes.

Here is where the reserved pasta water comes in. Add the water a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency of the sauce. Finally, add the cooked pasta noodles and butter and mix it all together. Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and serve warm, garnished with parsley.

Plate of Vodka Sauce and Penne Noodles

Can You Taste the Vodka?

The best answer to this question is that vodka will alter the taste of the sauce. Will you taste the vodka itself? Well, if you have a spoonful of the sauce immediately after adding it (without any simmering), there will be a more powerful alcoholic flavor. So, be sure to simmer the sauce for 5-8 minutes before digging in. This simmer time will leave just the ‘bite’ at the end of each bite of sauce, which is a positive result of cooking with vodka.

If you do not have alcohol around your house, or simply choose not to use it, you can definitely leave it out. However, it will affect the flavor of the sauce and you may need to add a little more of the pasta water.

Fork Picking up Vodka Sauce with Penne Noodles

More Pasta Dishes

4.75 from 4 votes

Vodka Sauce

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 23 mins
Total Time 33 mins
Vodka Sauce is a creamy, tomato-based sauce that has just the right amount of kick to go perfectly with pasta in this penne alla vodka dish.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces penne noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup pasta water, reserved from cooked pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • fresh basil for garnish

Instructions

  • To get started, make the pasta. Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add the pasta noodles, and cook them according to the package instructions.
  • Be sure to reserve 1 cup of cooked pasta water before draining and rinsing the noodles. Set the cooked noodles aside until adding them to the sauce.
  • Using a large skillet, heat up the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat.
  • Add in the garlic and shallot and cook that for 3-5 minutes, or until soft.
  • Next, add the vodka and deglaze the pan. Add in the tomato paste, cream, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook these ingredients together until they are heated through, or 5-8 minutes.
  • At this point, you may need to add a little of the reserved pasta water to the sauce. Add one tablespoon of water at a time until you reach your desired consistency of the sauce.
  • Finally, pour in the cooked penne noodles and butter. Mix everything together until the butter is melted and the noodles are coated with the vodka sauce.
  • Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Serve warm.

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Reader Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I didn’t have a lot of time and family was hungry. We wanted some sort of pasta so of course I pulled up the Pinterest app and found this recipe. Easy, quick and delicious. I added some sliced Italian sausage at the end and it came out great. I recommend this recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    Love it but in your picture you show the Parmesan cheese in pan with butter and pasta before you mix it but in recipe it says add Parmesan as garnish. Which is it? I made this tonight and it was amazing!

  3. 4 stars
    I made this recipe last night… delicious! My family loved it. The only thing I have to say is it did lack some flavor. I used chicken stalk instead of pasta water that made it a bit better but I think more spices should be added.

  4. Love this recipe! It is one of my favorite pasta sauces now! Could we sub the heavy cream for whole milk for a lower calorie option?

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