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Penne with Vodka Sauce

 This recipe for Penne with Vodka Sauce is the ultimate comfort dish taken up a notch.  It’s tangy, slightly spicy, creamy, and with the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  This dish is richly flavorful and perfect for weekend company or weeknight family dinner.  Leftovers reheat beautifully.

Penne with Vodka Sauce in pan

Penne with Creamy Vodka Sauce

This past weekend was one of those tests of flexibility.  With the windy wet weekend, our planned adventurous day out for Father’s Day got the boot, and we quickly worked out a Plan B.

Okay, so an afternoon at a crowded indoor shopping mall isn’t nearly as invigorating as a planned bike ride along scenic river trails.  But sometimes we have to just go with it.  Be flexible when thunder suddenly comes calling.  It’s par for the course around here.

We didn’t let the windy rain stop us from getting huge (footlong) ice-cream cones.  Dreamy, creamy cones we could barely finish and made our stomachs hurt.

The gusty storm didn’t dampen our appetite for our favorite Thai dishes.  After the gallon of ice cream we consumed that afternoon.  Which was thankfully walked off at said shopping mall. That’s where this Penne with Creamy Vodka Sauce comes in.

Penne with Vodka Sauce in pan

Deliciously Flavorful and Easy to Make

Take this luscious Penne with Vodka Sauce, for instance.  I had originally planned on making this totally unrelated dish of Dan Dan Noodles for a friend last week.

However, the week ended up being much more hectic than anticipated.  Could have to do with the first week of summer break.  Aka, all three boys at home.

Anyways.  I didn’t end up having time to shop for ingredients for the Asian style dinner I had planned to prepare.  So, I searched my pantry for what I did have.  Enter: Penne with Vodka Sauce.

Penne with Vodka Sauce Close up

Savory, A little Spicy, and Scrumptious

This Penne with Vodka Sauce is absolutely phenomenal.  It’s creamy without being too rich. It’s savory, a little sweet, and little spicy, and remarkably flavorful.

The vodka lends complexity to the sauce, yet all its alcohol is cooked away, so there is no bitterness to the sauce.  We add crumbled/cooked Italian sausage to the sauce, which gives it that additional oomph and heartiness, for those who want the meat.

Be sure to cook your pasta al dente, so each bite is tender yet retains a bit of chewy-ness.

Leftovers reheat wonderfully, though we only had two bites leftover the next day.  Even the Littles scarfed this one down and asked for seconds.


Did you make this?

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Penne with Vodka Sauce in pan

Penne with Sausage and Vodka Sauce

4.79 from 14 ratings
Just the right balance of savory, tangy, spicy, and creamy. Tastes rich and creamy yet not heavy. Leftovers are great. Be sure not to overcook the pasta.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Amy Dong


  • 1 lb Italian sausage, no casings, either mild or spicy
  • 1 28 oz can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices reserved
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • table salt to taste
  • cup vodka
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ lb dried penne
  • 2 TB minced fresh basil leaves
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving


  • In a saucepan over medium high heat, cook and crumble sausage until cooked through. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, puree half of the diced tomatoes until smooth. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes, including juices.
  • Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium. Add onion and tomato paste, stirring, until onion is light golden, 3 min.
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium high and simmer 8 -10 minutes, stirring often and lowering heat if simmering is vigorous. Stir in cream and cooked sausage and cook to heat up 1 min. Turn heat off and keep warm.
  • While sauce is simmering: bring large pot of well salted water to boil. Cook pasta until just shy of al dente (about a minute less than package instructions for al dente) Reserve 1/2 up of pasta water. Drain pasta but don't rinse, and return it to the pot.
  • Add the warm tomato sauce mixture and toss over medium heat, until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 min. Adjust consistency of sauce with the reserved pasta water as needed.
  • Stir in basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with fresh parmesan.

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 889kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 55g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 1137mg | Potassium: 1101mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1015IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 132mg | Iron: 5mg
Course: Dinner, Pasta
Cuisine: American Italian
Method: Stovetop

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen CookBook

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4.79 from 14 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


    • Leah

    This looks amazing. Pinning it so I can make this for family dinner on Sunday!

      • chewoutloud

      Enjoy, Leah!

    • Sonia Seivwright

    I love the fact that you can add alcohol in cooking. Never tried it but i will soon. I want to see how it taste. This dish looks amazing.

      • chewoutloud

      It adds to the depth of flavor, but alcohol content gets “cooked off” on stovetop, so kids can enjoy too 🙂

    • Anasha Khan

    This looks delicious. Will be saving this to try for sure.

      • Amy
      • 5 stars

      This was delicious!! Followed the recipe to a T! I appreciated that this recipe has you purée half of the tomatoes from the very beginning, so you’re not messing around with hot tomato sauce and trying to blend it all at the end.

        • Amy Dong

        Yay, Amy!! 🙂 🙂

    • Vidya
    • 5 stars

    we will skip the sausage as we are vegetarian but i know we will love this at home.. my teenager uses a similar recipe (and i added the vodka!) and each time it is devoured with smacking lips

      • chewoutloud

      Yes, the alcohol burns off as you cook the sauce. So good! 🙂

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