Vodka Cream Sauce over Penne Pasta

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Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce is one of those special recipes that you make when you want something extra. Extra special, extra good and filled with extra love for the people the you are creating it for.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 50 minutes
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Vodka Cream Sauce over Penne Pasta is one of those special recipes that you make when you want something extra. Extra special, extra good and filled with extra love for the people the you are creating it for.

Penne Vodka with a cream sauce in a white bowl with tomatoes in the background.

This Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce recipe is based on one that I found from the incomparable Barefoot Contessa. This is a simple sauce to make, but it does take a bit of time. Like all good, traditional sauces should.

Want even more meatless recipes to make for your family, check these


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What We Love About This Recipe

Ina Garten, has been making delicious meals, in her shop and on tv forever, want to learn more about the Barefoot Contessa, check here.

  • Family Meal: A simple recipe but is perfect for those special sunday suppers.
  • Easy Ingredients: All found in pantry or fridge.
  • Family Friendly: Cream Pink Vodka Sauce is a favorite with the entire family.
  • Adaptable: Can make it without vodka or over many different pastas.
Penne vodka with a skillet with the pasta in the background.

Ingredient Notes

  • Olive Oil: A good quality oil.
  • Onion, chopped or shallots work well, too.
  • Garlic, chopped.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Dried Oregano and Fresh Oregano
  • Vodka: Any brand of plain vodka will do when cooking with vodka.
  • Plum Tomatoes, 2-28 ounces cans peeled, drain liquid.
  • Heavy Cream: This is what gives that rich creamy consistency to the vodka sauce.
  • Parmesan Cheese: grated to add to dish and for garnish.
  • Pasta: Cooked in salted water and topped with a tablespoon butter.
Tomatoes, butter cream, inions, garlic and pennne pasta in clear glass bowls.

Equipment Needed

How to Make Vodka Sauce

These are the basic steps for making Vodka Cream Sauce. No need for tomato paste in this rich, thick sauce. Please refer to the recipe card below for more detailed instructions.

Sauting the vegetables, adding the tomatoes and finally the cream.

STEP 1: Saute

First, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in large, oven-proof saute pan or large skillet over medium heat. and then add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Next, add the 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and dried oregano can cook for another minute. and lastly, add the vodka and continue cooking until reduced by half.

STEP 2: Roast

Meanwhile,drain the tomatoes through a sieve and, using your hands, crush them into the pan with the onions.  Add 2 tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Cover the pan with a tight lid and place in a 375 degree oven for 1-1.5 hours.  Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Boil water and cook pasta following package directions to al dente.

STEP 3: Blend

Finally, place the tomato sauce in a blender and puree until the sauce is a smooth consistency and then return to the pan.  Reheat the sauce and add the fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer, then add parmesan cheese.

Cooking down and thickening the sauce and finally adding the pasta.

Prep and Storage Tips

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME

Roast the tomatoes and puree ahead of time and simply build the sauce when you are ready to serve it.

HOW TO STORE THIS RECIPE

Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.

HOW TO FREEZE THIS RECIPE

The Penne alla vodka sauce can be frozen in a freezer safe container for up to 6 months.

HOW TO REHEAT THIS TOMATO CREAM SAUCE RECIPE

Thaw the night before. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan on the stove top until it is warmed through. Roughly 10 minutes on medium heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

HOW TO MAKE VODKA SAUCE RECIPE WITHOUT VODKA?

The alcohol really burns off when you are cooking, therefore you are just left with the flavor, However, if you do not want to use the vodka, replace with some reserve pasta water and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in this pasta sauce instead.

CAN I MAKE MY OWN HEAVY CREAM?

Of course, to make 1 cup of heavy cream, mix 2/3 cup of whole milk with 1/3 cup melted butter.

CAN THIS RECIPE BE DOUBLED OR HALVED?

Indeed, however since you are going to the trouble of making this sumptuous sauce, make the double batch and freeze for future use.

DOES THE VODKA EVAPORATE WHEN YOU COOK VODKA SAUCE?

Yes, due to the heat, the alcohol in the vodka will evaporate, usually in about 7 to ten minutes, stir while cooking it off.

Pasta in a white bowl on a white tablecloth.

Expert Tips for Making This Recipe

  • Fire Roasted Tomatoes: Rather than roast your own tomatoes, try canned roasted tomatoes.
  • Meat: Pancetta adds even more flavor to this rich sauce. Shrimp and grilled chicken can also be added for a meatier version of this traditional Italian sauce.
  • Variation tip: Whole grain spaghetti, pea pasta or gluten free pasta can be used. Veggies can also be used like zucchini noodles.
  • Alternate cooking method tip: The air fryer is a wonderful way to roast the tomatoes in less time, cook at 390 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 
  • Finish: Fresh herbs like parsley or fresh basil LEAVES are wonderful for this recipe. Top with more cheese like romano or parmesan to finish the dish.

What to Serve with Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

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Vodka Cream Sauce Over Penne Pasta

Yield: 4 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 50 minutes
Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce is one of those special recipes that you make when you want something extra. Extra special, extra good and filled with extra love for the people the you are creating it for.
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Ingredients

  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2-28 oz plum tomatoes, cans peeled
  • 1 Tbsp oregano,fresh , chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in large, oven-proof saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano can cook for another minute. Add the vodka and continue cooking until reduced by half.
  • Drain the tomatoes through a sieve and, using your hands, crush them into the pan with the onions. Add 2 tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight lid and place in a 375 degree oven for 1-1.5 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Place the tomato sauce in a blender and puree until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan. Reheat the sauce and add the fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 10 minutes. Add parmesan cheese.

Expert Tips

  • Fire Roasted Tomatoes: Rather than roast your own tomatoes, try canned roasted tomatoes.
  • Meat: Pancetta adds even more flavor to this rich sauce. Shrimp and chicken can also be added for a meatier version of this traditional Italian sauce.
  • Variation tip: Whole grain pasta, pea pasta or gluten free pasta can be used.
  • Alternate cooking method tip: The air fryer is a wonderful way to roast the tomatoes in less time, cook at 390 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 
  • Finish: Fresh herbs like parsley or basil are wonderful for this recipe. Top with more cheese like romano or parmesan.

Estimated Nutritional Information

Calories: 361kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 222mg | Potassium: 140mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 922IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 201mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information provided are estimates. To learn more about how I calculate this information go to www.itisakeeper.com/about-its-a-keeper/privacy-disclosure-policies/
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Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: dinner, Penne, vodka sauce

This recipe is my personal adaption of an ethnic inspired recipe. It is not intended to be an authentic recipe.  I’ve recreated this recipe because I enjoy the flavors and I want to encourage my readers to expand their tastes and try new flavor combinations. The recipe, ingredients and processes may have been adapted to make the recipe accessible for the average American. I have provided links to authentic versions of the recipe in the post above. I encourage you to visit these pages and learn more about the traditional version(s) of this recipe.

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5 thoughts on “Vodka Cream Sauce over Penne Pasta”

  1. I love Penne a la Vodka with chicken – I know I could cook the chicken seperately – but I’m wondering when it could be added to pick up the right amount of sauce flavoring? Any ideas? (Sorry – not a whiz in the kitchen).

    Reply
    • I would add the cooked chicken to the sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking — when you’re finishing the sauce off. I hope this helps! Good luck!

      Reply
  2. ‘drain tomatoes thru a sieve’ — are we using the drained juice as part of the recipe, or just the tomatoes? Just want to be sure before I try to make this…
    Thanx,

    Barb :~)

    Reply
    • I didn’t use the tomato juice. I drained them completely and just used the tomatoes.

      Good luck! And, be sure to let me know how you make out! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Once upon a time, I bought the refrigerated Vodka sauce just to see if I would like it before I made it. Have seen many recipes, but I think this one tops them all.Must try it, and then pass the recipe on. Some of Ina’s recipes are great repeaters like her scampi.

    Reply

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