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the best penne alla vodka in a white bowl with parmesan cheese grated on top

The Best Penne alla Vodka

This easy penne alla vodka recipe has the most silky tomato cream sauce. It only takes about 20 minutes to make! Perfect for busy weeknights.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword best penne alla vodka recipe, easy penne alla vodka recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 500 kcal
Author Natasha Bull


  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil, sliced thin optional, to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese optional, to taste


  1. Boil a generously salted pot of water for the penne and it cook al dente according to package directions. 
  2. Meanwhile, add the oil and butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for 5-7 minutes or until softened (ok if it lightly browns).

  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

  4. Add the vodka and let the sauce bubble for 30 seconds or so.

  5. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the tomato paste until you've got a smooth mixture.

  6. Return the pan to the heat, stir in the cream, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the sauce warm through. I find this sauce thickens up almost instantly, but feel free to cook it a little longer to thicken it up even more.

  7. Season with salt & pepper as needed. Stir in the fresh basil if using. Toss with the drained pasta (if needed, thin the sauce out a bit with a splash of hot pasta water prior to draining it). Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • I don't recommend subbing the heavy cream for something like milk or half-and-half because the sauce is likely to curdle/get grainy, and it won't be as thick or delicious.
  • This makes 4 reasonably-sized portions (not huge ones, and I suggest serving this recipe with something like a salad since it's quite rich by itself). If you're feeding hungry people who will eat more than 2 oz pasta each and no side dishes, I recommend doubling the recipe.
  • I used a 10.25" Le Creuset skillet to make this recipe (any skillet is fine).
  • Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Nutrition Facts
The Best Penne alla Vodka
Amount Per Serving
Calories 500 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Cholesterol 76mg25%
Sodium 201mg9%
Potassium 346mg10%
Carbohydrates 48g16%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 1081IU22%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Calcium 50mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.