Penne alla Vodka

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Penne alla Vodka is without doubt one of our all-time favorite Italian-American pasta dishes.  It is truly the definition of “make-you-feel-good” food.

Going the distance and making the homemade marinara is a must. And then the dish comes together very quickly.

This is the real deal. 

Penne alla Vodka in a skillet with a wooden spoon in the pasta.


Penne all Vodka is not difficult to make at home, especially if you make the marinara sauce in advance.

Watch us show you how easy (and fun) it is to make this classic Italian dish at home!

Well, as mentioned, the basis for an outstanding Penne alla Vodka dish is a robust Homemade Marinara.

This can easily be made in advance. We make a large batch and then freeze in several storage containers.

This marinara is bursting with Italian flavors and is just so wonderful.

Classic Penne alla Vodka recipe

Start building the flavor profile off by sautéing onions, garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes.

The smell emanating from your kitchen will begin to attract the attention of hungry house dwellers before you know it.


Classic Penne alla Vodka recipe

Now, let’s really fire things up!

Very carefully, add the vodka and then use a long match to ignite the alcohol. Be careful when doing this, and be sure to stand back.

This is a technique called flambé and though it’s not completely necessary, it does improve the overall flavor of the sauce.

classic penne alla vodka recipe

Next goes in the prepared marinara sauce.

And then what gives the dish it’s classic pink appearance is the addition of cream. We think just a touch of heavy cream gives the sauce a wonderful texture and luxurious taste.

Oh, yes…cream.

classic penne alla vodka recipe


Americans are just crazy about this dish. And I can tell you one thing…the Loon and I are two Americans that flip for a good Penne alla Vodka.

Some might ask, but why vodka? Does it really enhance the flavor? I’ve had a basic marinara sauce with sautéed aromatics, and it’s good. But there is something about adding vodka to the sauce and then flambeing it that in my estimation…really does make a difference.

Learn more about the origins of Classic Penne Alla Vodka from

In the meantime, just feast your eyes on this…

Classic Penne alla Vodka recipe

If you love this classic Italian-American dish, you’ve got to check out our recipes for:

Classic Chicken Piccata

Succulent Shrimp Scampi

Authentic Chicken Marsala

Chicken Crusted Parmesan with Vodka Sauce

But in the meantime, you should really whip up a batch of this amazing Classic Penne alla Vodka.

Classic Penne alla Vodka recipe

Penne alla vodka in a large skillet with a wooden spoon.

Classic Penne alla Vodka

This Classic Penne alla Vodka is just that:  Classic, vintage and perfectly Italian-American at it best.  Make the Homemade Marinara to ensure the best taste you could ever imagine. This is pasta comfort heaven. 
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Marinara, Pasta, Penne
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 296kcal


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp for more heat)
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 4 cups homemade marina sauce (click link below for complete recipe)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz dried penne
  • 1 cup Romano cheese
  • Kosher salt and black pepper


  • Make the homemade marinara sauce and set aside (can be made up to 3 days in advance, stored in the refrigerator). 
  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the onions and lower the heat to medium.  Cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the basil, parsley, and red peppers (to taste), cooking and stirring for about 30 seconds.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the vodka (stand back when doing this).  If the vodka does not flame, very carefully light a long match and ignite.  (again, stand back).  
  • Once flame has died down, return the pan to the heat and add the marinara sauce and simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Add the cream and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes until slightly thickened.
  • Meanwhile, cook the penne in a salted pot of water for 8 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta.  Bring the sauce to a simmer again and stir in 1/2 cup of the Romano cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well over low heat until penne is fully coated. Serve with remaining cheese on the side.


Calories: 296kcal
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  • 5 stars
    This is probably about the tenth time I have made this recipe and I have made the homemade marinara every time. It is an INCREDIBLE recipe!! I’m making it this time for Christmas Day. Thank you for ALL of your recipes <3

    • Hi Debbie! Woo hoo! We LOVE that you are enjoying the penne alla vodka recipe! We LOVE making it so much, too! We so very much appreciate you letting us know and for the wonderful review!! Merry Christmas!!! xoxo Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Another fabulous recipe from my favorite kitchen duo! My family absolutely loved it. I could not get the vodka mixture to flambe. My mixture had more oil than your photo, so maybe that was why. I used 1/4 cup as directed. Regardless of this. the sauce was the best I’ve had, and I have had penne vodka numerous times. I will make this again and again. I love the visibility of the herbs. Beautiful and delicious. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!!!

    • Hi Stephanie! Woo hoo! Yeah, sometimes the alcohol won’t flame, but that’s okay. We are so si excited you enjoyed it and thank you SO MUCH for sharing and for the GREAT review. That means the world to us!!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

      • 5 stars
        Hi guys! I just made the sauce again, and it did flame. I used a different pot, and for some reason the mixture was less liquidy even though I used the same measurements. This is such a wonderful recipe. Thanks again!

      • That literally makes us so so so happy! It’s funny how sometimes it flames and other times not! So glad you are enjoying the dish! And as always…thank you for sharing!! Have a great weekend!

    • Hi Owen! YES!!! We LOVE making this recipe and we are so thrilled you had success with it, too! Thank you so much for sharing and for the awesome review. That means the world to us! Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Hi there! I love your blog and had to tear myself away from it. Your penne a la vodka really caught my eye. I have all the ingredients on hand, even the vodka! We have an herb garden down behind the condo, so I’ll grab some fresh basil and parsley. I plan to make the marinara sauce over the coming weekend with plenty left for freezing. And .. will have it for dinner when company comes Sunday. I know it’ll be a big hit. Thanks for sharing.
    ~~~ Aloha, Nancy On Maui ~~~

    • Hi Nancy!! We love everything about what you just said!! This penne all vodka is so flavorful and is truly one of our all-time favorite dishes. And it’s great to hear you’re going to make a big batch of marinara. We think you and your guests will like it a lot. Please let us know how it turns out! And we are jealous…Maui??? That’s absolutely wonderful!!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Wow, this looks so delicious. Penne alla vodka is my favorite dish to order at an Italian restaurant. Can hardly wait to make this at home for the family!

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