Become a Better Cook in 4 Days!

Penne alla Vodka is a classic Italian pasta dish made with penne pasta in a creamy tomato and vodka sauce.  So simple, but so good!

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka is one of those recipes that (I think) too often gets over looked in Italian cuisine. To look at the dish – it’s just penne pasta in tomato sauce. But when you look under the hood (so to speak), there’s a lot more to this simple, delicious comfort food.

In Italian cuisine, you don’t often find cream sauce mixed with tomatoes or red sauce because the acidity of the tomatoes makes the oil in the cream separate. But in Penne alla Vodka – the vodka serves as an emulsifier which prevents that separation from occurring.


Penne alla Vodka

Plus – the acidity of the vodka is also believed to release flavors from the tomatoes that you wouldn’t normally detect in a traditional tomato sauce. And Jack and I can both definitely vouch for that – this Penne alla Vodka is uniquely delicious!

Penne alla Vodka is an extremely simple dish that can be prepared in about the same time it takes to cook the pasta. After a little bit of chopping, you can get this delicious dish on the table in less than thirty minutes.

Penne alla Vodka


How do you make Penne alla Vodka?

We highly recommend using canned, crushed San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe (such as Cento or Pastene brands).  This simple sauce also gets a punch of flavor from minced fresh garlic and shallots, prosciutto, a pinch of red pepper flakes – plus chopped fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top as your Penne alla Vodka is served.

Penne alla Vodka

A few other notes: Using penne pasta is traditional in this dish (hence, the name) because it holds the perfect amount of sauce inside – giving you the best balance of pasta and sauce in each bite.

When preparing the Penne alla Vodka you see in our photos throughout today’s post, we used a top-shelf vodka brand, but any vodka you have in house will work just fine in this dish.


You may enjoy these other simple pasta recipes:

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: pasta
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


1 pound penne pasta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

Pinch red pepper flakes

¼ pound sliced prosciutto cut into pieces

¼ cup shallots, diced

½ cup vodka

1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (we used Cento brand)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Few grinds black pepper

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

½ cup fresh basil, finely chopped (don’t chop until ready to add to the dish)


Place a large pot of water on to boil and once boiling, add some salt and the pasta and cook just short of done.

While the pasta water is heating, prep all ingredients and in a large sauté pan or skillet, place olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, prosciutto and shallots and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until shallots are soft.

Add vodka and cook for one minute.

Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook uncovered for three minutes, then add the cream and remove from heat.

Once the pasta is done, return heat to the sauce, and stir in the butter and cook for two minutes. With a spider or strainer, scoop out and add the pasta to the sauce along with ½ cup of pasta water.

Cook just until the pasta is cooked, adding more pasta water as needed.

Stir in the Parmesan and stir.

Chop the basil and add and stir again. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Keywords: penne alla vodka, pasta



Penne alla Vodka


Featured in this Penne all Vodka post

  • Share
  • Pin
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Meet The Author: Martha

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe rating

    What type of comment do you have?

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • Yvonne wrote:

    I am going to make soon

    • Martha wrote:

      Hope you enjoy the recipe Yvonne!

  • May wrote:

    Recipe flavor excellent however prosciutto very chewy. I diced small pieces. What could I have done wrong. And can there be a sub for prosciutto

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi May – There are different grades of prosciutto – some domestic and some imported – and some can be chewier than others based on how they have been aged. You likely didn’t do anything wrong! We do typically buy an imported prosciutto (which can be more expensive) but the flavor is much better as well as the texture. I suppose you could swap in a good quality ham, but it won’t replace all of the flavor you’d get by using the prosciutto. Hope that helps!

  • Emily wrote:

    Made this with regular crushed tomatoes and without prosciutto and it was delicious! Super easy to make! Looking forward to making it (and eating it) again : )

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Emily – so glad you enjoyed it!

  • A Family Feast ® is a registered trademark of A Family Feast, Inc. All content, including recipes, text, visual elements, and photographs are copyright © A Family Feast, Inc. 2012-2020, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.