This Penne Alla Vodka recipe is a fast weeknight dinner that is full of delicious flavor. Skip the fancy restaurant and make this amazing dish at home.
Just last night, my husband and I were talking about how important dating has been to our marriage. It is the thing that keeps us grounded and connected through all of life’s struggles – of which we have had many.
When going out on a date just isn’t feasible, we try to do date nights at home, cooking with each other. I love spending time cooking with my husband, especially when it’s part of a date. This Penne Alla Vodka recipe is the perfect thing to cook with the person you love for a special date night in.
OMG. Thank you so much, Lisa, for this recipe, and all of your recipes!! Just made this tonight, and it was delicious! It was a simple and quick weeknight dinner to make, that was thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you SO much!
What is Penne Alla Vodka
The exact origins of penne alla vodka are unknown. What we do know for sure is that it is a delicious and easy pasta dish made with tomatoes, cream, and pancetta that will feel like eating at a fancy restaurant. This great pasta dish first showed up in the early 1970s and became really popular both in the United States and Italy in the 1980s.
How to Make Penne Alla Vodka
- Cook the pasta. Before you do anything else, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the dry noodles and salt the water. Cook the pasta for the length of time indicated on the box.
- Start the sauce. While the pasta is cooking start the penne alla vodka sauce. Melt butter in a pan and then sauté onions and garlic. Then add in the pancetta and brown it.
- Deglaze the pan with vodka. While adding the vodka to the hot pan, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by half.
- Finish of the sauce. Add in tomato sauce and half and half. Simmer over low heat for 8 minutes.
- Add the pasta and cheese. Finish the dish off by stirring the pasta into the sauce and topping with fresh Parmesan.
What Does Penne Alla Vodka Taste Like
Penne Alla Vodka has the rich flavor of pancetta and tomato. The vodka in this recipe helps deglaze the pan after cooking the pancetta, really bringing this flavor home. Finally, the creaminess of the half and half and the delicious flavor of Parmesan cheese make it feel like a decadent rich dish.
Pancetta is an Italian salt-cured meat. It is pork and comes from the same cut as bacon. It is thicker cut than bacon, and because it is cured it has a different flavor. It can often be found in the deli with other higher end cuts of cured meat, such as those used for a charcuterie board.
Serving this to Children
You should use your own best discretion when making recipes containing alcohol and considering serving them to children. It takes about 3 hours to fully cook off alcohol. According to the Food Network, a sauce cooked for 15 minutes will retain 40% of its alcohol. That is about the amount of time the sauce is cooked here. Therefore, there will be roughly 1 ounce of vodka left in the whole dish.
I would recommend using a mid tier to top tier vodka for this recipe. Lower shelf vodkas will leave an unpleasant aftertaste. Titos is an affordable mid tier vodka. Grey Goose is my personal preference.
There is a rumor that Kirkland vodka is actually a top tier vodka that is being sold at a lower price point. It has won in blind taste tests against high level vodkas, so this could be true.
Add leftovers to a skillet with 1 tablespoon of half and half. Cook, covered, over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more half and half as needed.
If you are making this on a budget, you definitely can replace the pancetta with bacon. Because there will be a significant amount of fat cooked off with the bacon, I suggest that you cook it separately and add it at the same time as the tomato sauce.
What to Serve with Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
This dish would be perfect with a vegetable side dish or a salad. If you are making this is part of a bigger holiday meal, it would be the perfect fancy counterpart to Prime Rib.
Some side dishes we enjoy this with are:
If you make this penne alla vodka recipe or any of my other recipes, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces pancetta diced (read what pancetta is here)
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook according to instructions on the package, draining the pasta when it still has a small bite to it.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add in the onion and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the pancetta, and sauté until lightly browned. Stir in the vodka, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a simmer, and cook until it is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and half and half. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered over low heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the cooked penne, and serve topped with the Parmesan cheese.
OMG. Thank you so much, Lisa, for this recipe, and all of your recipes!! Just made this tonight, and it was delicious!!!! It was a simple and quick weeknight dinner to make, that was thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you SO much!!!
Lisa Longley says
Tina! Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and tell me!
Joanne cholewin says
What is pancetta? Where do I find it in the store?
Lisa Longley says
Pancetta is an Italian cured meat. In my grocery store I can find it at the meat counter, and sometimes in the coolers around them. You should be able to ask the butcher.
Karen Boland says
Can the sauce be made a few days in advance and then warm it and add pasta?
Lisa Longley says
I’ve never tried making the sauce in advance, but if I was going to, I would stop half way through step four. When you are ready to eat it, then add in the half and half and let it simmer for 8 minutes.
lynn Doane says
Lisa Longley says