Penne Alla Vodka can be found at nearly every Italian restaurant. A creamy tomato sauce that is flavored with herbs and vodka and tossed with penne pasta.
Although it sounds like a fancy Italian dish, it is very easy to make with just a few basic ingredients. But best of all, it can be ready to eat in just 30 minutes!
In fact, this recipe originated as a quick and economical way for men to make a delicious dinner and impress their dates. And regardless of how it began, this sauce is so delicious that everyone who tries it, loves it!
Although it can be served as a meatless pasta dish, it is most often served with a protein. Chicken is the most common addition. However, it can also include sausage, shrimp or even lobster!
Then to make it even better, and maybe even a tad healthier, vegetables can also be added to this popular dish. You will most often see onions and sweet red bell peppers added to the sauce.
However, I also like to add fresh baby spinach leaves to the Vodka sauce. When cooked, the spinach wilts down and is barely visible.
However the small specs of green adds another level of visual appeal to this recipe. In addition, spinach is packed with a ton of nutrients and is a good source of fiber.
So now that you know how you can enhance this classic Italian recipe, let’s get cooking!
Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
*Specific measurements and complete recipe instructions are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to continue to read the tips and tricks to making this recipe below.
- Penne pasta
- Butter, unsalted
- Chicken Breasts, Chicken Thighs, or Chicken Sausage, cut into bite size chunks
- Finely chopped onion
- Finely chopped red bell pepper
- Garlic cloves, chopped
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Pasta sauce
- Heavy cream
- Vodka, plain
- Baby spinach leaves
- Ground black pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Chopped fresh parsley or basil
The first step in making Penne Alla Vodka is to cook the penne pasta. Because there are many brands of penne pasta you must read the instructions and cook the pasta for al dente consistency, minus 1 minute.
This will help the pasta to remain firm enough when it is tossed and cooked briefly with the sauce. Once the pasta is done boiling, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the remaining water and let the pasta sit in the colander.
While the pasta is boiling, heat a large saute pan or electric skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the butter and let it melt.
Place the cut chicken pieces to the pan and let it brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Then flip the chicken over and let it brown on the other side.
Next add the onion, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to the pan with the chicken. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked through and onion is translucent and soft.
Stir in the pasta sauce, heavy cream and vodka. Then cook, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened.
Next, stir in the cooked pasta, reserved pasta water, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Toss well and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted, approximately 5 minutes.
Serve warm with Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese and fresh chopped parsley or basil on top, if desired.
Helpful Cooking Tips
1. Be sure to not overcook your pasta. Because the pasta will be added back into the sauce and cooked a little longer, you want your pasta to be cooked 1 minute short of al’ dente consistency.
2. Gather all the ingredients ahead of time. Because this Penne Alla Vodka recipe comes together quickly, it is best to have everything prepared ahead of time.
3. Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. You can use this water to thin out the sauce, but more importantly, the pasta water will allow the Vodka sauce to adhere to the noodles better.
4. When you add the spinach to the sauce, cut the leaves into smaller pieces. They spinach will literally disappear and leave only specs of green. It is a great way to add more some greens to your diet without really even noticing!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use a different variety of noodle?
Although the preferred noodle of choice is penne pasta, you can make the Vodka sauce and pour it over other types of pasta. However, I recommend pasta with ridges on the surface so that it soaks that the sauce adheres to the surface better.
Some other great choices of pasta are: Rigatoni, Rotini, Fusilli, or even small pasta Shells.
2. Can I make this recipe Gluten-Free?
This recipe is easy to make gluten-free. There are some fantastic gluten-free pastas that can be found at most grocery stores.
Although most pasta sauces are naturally gluten-free, be sure to read the label to ensure that they did not add any wheat products to the sauce for thickening or processing.
Or you can always make your own with this easy Instant Pot Pasta Sauce Recipe made with fresh tomatoes.
3. Can I make this ahead of time?
Although this Penne Alla Vodka recipe can be made and ready to eat in under 30 minutes, there are some things that you can do ahead of time to make it come together even quicker.
For example, boil the noodles ahead of time. When they are cool, drizzle a little olive oil on top and store them in the refrigerator.
You can also make the Vodka sauce and cook the chicken together and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before making the final dish.
Then when you want to serve it, heat up the sauce and add the pasta, spinach and Parmesan cheese. Cook until warmed through and the spinach has wilted.
4. How do I store and reheat leftovers?
Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Then to reheat, place the leftovers in a large skillet with a few tablespoons of water over medium heat.
Heat for 5-6 minutes, or until the sauce and chicken is heated through.
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- 8 ounce penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 4 chicken thighs or sausags, cut into bite sized chunks
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use more or less per taste)
- 1 and 1/2 cups pasta sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup Vodka, plain
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups baby Spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Chopped fresh basil and/or parsley
- Cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente, minus 1 minute and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add butter when the pan is hot and let melt. Add the chicken. Let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes and then flip and cook on the other side.
- Add onion, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to the chicken, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked and onion is translucent and soft.
- Stir in the pasta sauce, heavy cream and vodka. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened.
- Stir in the cooked pasta, reserved pasta water, spinach, parmesan cheese. Toss well and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted, approximately 5 minutes.
- Serve warm with Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese and fresh chopped basil and/or parsley on top.
Recipe provided by Make Your Meals
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 480Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 812mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 12g
Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.