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Penne with Vodka Sauce

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Penne with Vodka Sauce, aka Penne alla Vodka, is tender pasta tossed in a creamy tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, vodka, fresh basil, and grated Parmesan cheese. This big bowl of comfort food is perfect for a weeknight dinner or for company!

Penne tossed in a creamy tomato sauce topped with grated cheese and fresh basil in a large skillet.

I do not know why I keep asking my son for dinner ideas, he always says the same thing “pasta”! I could not bring myself to make boring old spaghetti again, I wanted something different. I had always wanted to try pasta with a creamy vodka sauce, but couldn’t because of the heavy cream (I am lactose-intolerant and my son is allergic to dairy).

My new trick is to substitute coconut milk whenever you would usually use cream, so I decided to give it a try. It worked, no coconut taste…yeah! Sometimes recipes that have a large amount of “cream” will end up with a coconut taste, but it worked perfectly!

This recipe has been updated with new images and with heavy cream. Oddly enough I am now more allergic to coconut than dairy!

Penne pasta, crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, olive oil, garlic, onion, basil, vodka, and cheese in white bowls.

Penne alla Vodka ingredients:

  • penne pasta – I used De Cecco, but feel free to use your favorite brand. Gluten-free pasta will also work!
  • onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and crushed red pepper flakes are the base ingredients that flavor the sauce.
  • vodka adds depth but not much in the way of flavor. Do not use cheap alcohol!! Cheap vodka turns bitter when heated. I always use Absolut vodka.
  • heavy cream, or canned coconut milk, gives the sauce a creamy, richness.
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh basil give the sauce an added layer of flavor that makes this sauce extra special.
A bowl of Penne with creamy Vodka Sauce.

How to make Penne with Vodka Sauce:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season with salt, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.

Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Oil and chopped onion in a large skillet.

Stir in  the garlic and crushed red pepper.

Chopped onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes sautéed in oil.

Pour in the tomatoes and vodka and bring almost to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Crushed tomatoes and vodka added to the skillet.

Add the heavy cream (or coconut milk) and cook for 1 minute.

Heavy cream added to the tomato sauce.

Stir in the basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Grated Parmesan and chopped basil added to the vodka sauce in a skillet.

Add drained penne and toss to coat. Use the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce as needed.

Creamy tomato sauce covered penne pasta garnished with grated cheese and fresh basil in a white bowl.

Tools used to create this recipe:

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More delicious pasta recipes:

When my son came home he immediately starting teasing me about the house smelling like garlic, and it only has 3 cloves! Just wait until he gets home tonight and smells the Sole with 12 cloves of caramelized garlic. I think we are definitely safe from vampires!!

If you love this recipe, please rate it five stars and help me share on facebook and to help other readers in our community!

Enjoy!!

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Penne with Vodka Sauce is tender pasta tossed in a creamy tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, vodka, fresh basil, and grated Parmesan cheese.
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: creamy tomato sauce with vodka and penne pasta
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories: 456kcal
Author: Lisa Johnson

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 0.5 cup yellow onion minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • .25 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes add more if you like more heat
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vodka
  • .75 cup heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk – the kind in a can
  • .25 cup fresh basil chopped
  • .25 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season with salt, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • Add the tomatoes and vodka and bring almost to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low. and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Pour in the heavy cream (or coconut milk) and cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the basil and Parmesan cheese.
  • Add drained penne and toss to coat. Add reserved pasta water to thin the sauce as needed.

Notes

  • Do not use generic/cheap vodka, it has a bitter taste when it is used in cooking.
  • This dish is dairy-free if you use coconut milk. It is lactose-free if you add the Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 456kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Sodium: 88mg | Potassium: 497mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 225IU | Vitamin C: 9.8mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 3.2mg

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One Comment

  1. Wow, what a fantastic recipe! I just made this tonight for myself and the hubby and I could tell he really liked it!!! Sometimes we try to eat vegan (just to be healthier) and this recipe is going on the top of the ‘list’. Who knew you could use coconut milk in Vodka sauce?! Thanks for sharing!

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