Penne Alla Vodka

I had heard about Penne Alla Vodka long before I decided to give it a shot. Perhaps it was my not so fond memories involving vodka that we won’t really go into detail about here, that prevented me from trying it. But my 21st birthday aside, I gave it a shot recently and fell in love with it. The vodka is not over-powering but compliments the tomatoes, cream and bacon, yes bacon, very nicely.

We’ve all heard it before: everything is better with bacon. Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Take this pasta for instance, I decided to add bacon to this recipe because I love the smoky flavor and the little bit of crunch that it adds to the sauce. With that said, I know that not everyone thinks that everything is better with bacon. If you are vegetarian or (gasp!) don’t like bacon, simply omit the bacon and substitute 1 tablespoon of olive oil for the bacon drippings.

Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

Serves 4 - 6 Prep Time: Cook Time:


  • 5 slices bacon, diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound dried penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 basil leaves, rolled together and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt



In a large pan cook bacon over medium heat until browned, about 5 – 7 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate and set aside.


Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Add onions, garlic and crushed red pepper to reserved bacon drippings and cook until onions are translucent about 5 minutes. Pour in vodka. Cook 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.


After sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, whisk 1 tablespoon of sauce into cream to temper it. Slowly stir tempered cream into the tomato sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce. Stir to combine.


Return bacon to the pasta and stir in basil and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.


Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red peppers.



Leave a Comment

  • Reply
    April 4, 2011 at 10:26 am

    In response to Caryn, you can usually find shot size vodka bottles in the liquor store (in Canada anyway), so you can just buy a couple of those instead of a giant bottle!


  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    B- 1/4 cup of vodka = 2 ounces. Hope you enjoy the pasta!

  • Reply
    February 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Hi, this sounds wonderful just wanted to clarify how much vodka you mean by a 1/4 of a cup?

  • Reply
    June 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    This is on constant rotation at my house. Such a versatile sauce, I have made it with italian sausage, chicken, pancetta, meatballs and various veggies such as green and red peppers. Thank you!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I made this for valentine’s day dinner! It was delicious! I used pancetta instead of bacon and added chicken. So so so so good!

    • Reply
      February 17, 2010 at 7:31 am

      Thank you Alicia! I’m glad you liked it and I love the addition of the chicken!

  • Reply
    January 26, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Thank you everyone for your comments! Caryn- There really isn’t a magical substitute. If you leave it out it won’t be penne alla vodka any more but you will still have a delicious creamy, smoky tomato sauce. Or since you only need 1/4 cup you could also buy one of those mini bottles so you wouldn’t have a whole bottle. Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    Red Wines
    January 26, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Vodka and tomatoes!? That sounds crazy….I’m going to have to try this out ;)

  • Reply
    January 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

    That is one of my favorite dishes when we go to Italian restaurants! I should try making it at home as it does seem to be a simple enough recipe. Your photo is gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Neel | Learn Food Photography
    January 25, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I love pasta.

    Absolutely love it.

    This is a very interesting photograph. Reminds me of the 8 inspirational pasta shots I saw couple of weeks back.

    Thank you for sharing, Neel

  • Reply
    January 25, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I’ve made a recipe like this before and absolutely loved it. Since then I have quit drinking and don’t really wish to buy a bottle of vodka for the sole purpose of making one recipe. Any idea? Could I just leave it out or is there some magical substitute that would do that trick. Thanks!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2010 at 8:41 am

    thank for recipe

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