March 1, 2022

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

If there is one thing that I can never get tired of eating, it's a good and hearty plate of pasta! It's so comforting, delicious and when the sauce is done right, it can take it up so many notches.

This Penne Alla Vodka is a very classic dish! It's creamy and smooth in the best way possible and it's enriched with the salty-porkiness of bacon and finished with fresh bursts of basil and parsley. This pasta really has it all! Serve this 30-minute dinner up any night of the week and it will be a hit every time!

Why Vodka?

As is often the case with classic recipes, there is much debate as to where the recipe came from and who was the first to create it. Of all the origin stories, to me, the most logical origin story was that vodka sauce was created by a Roman chef, who was sponsored by a vodka company. Obviously he wanted to increase the popularity of vodka in Italy, so, what better way than to create a fantastic dish that featured that very same ingredient? Sounds pretty logical to me.

The beauty of using vodka in the sauce, whether intentional or by luck, was that it actually enhances the sauce in two important ways. The vodka, having a high acidity level, helps to cut through the richness of the cream, bacon and cheese, providing balance, while also mellowing out the natural sweetness from the tomato base. In addition, the vodka also serves as a binder to help emulsify the pork fat to the rest of the sauce.The vodka truly serves as the ingredient that pulls the whole dish together.

Ingredients for Penne Alla Vodka

When making this recipe, there are limitless ways of adapting it to how you want. The ingredients I listed are what I like to put in my Vodka Sauce but you can make any variation you wish! Don't have shallots handy? Swap it out with onions. This is what also make this recipe great for weeknight, easy meals. Here's what you need:

  • Bacon: While I love what bacon brings to the dish, you could also use pancetta or another salted-pork product such as guanciale as a replacement. If bacon or pork is not for you, you can simply leave it out.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: The most adequate replacement here is Pecorino-Romano cheese but you could use mozzarella, provolone, or whatever cheese you prefer.
  • Shallots: Seeing how a shallot is simply a mild onion, you can easily replace it in the same proportions with a typical yellow onion with little-to-no change in the recipe.
  • Tomato Sauce: I have made this recipe many times using both homemade sauce and store-bought tomato sauce and I can tell you with 100% certainty that nothing beats the homemade stuff! I also know that sometimes you just want to eat and don’t always have time to make your own sauce. When that time comes about, the key is to use a basic sauce that doesn’t have many flavors that will compete with the flavors you are adding to the sauce.
  • Fresh Herbs: Basil and parsley are my picks for herbs because of their freshness and the brightness they bring to the dish. When it comes to herbs, I typically use what is in season so during the colder months don’t be afraid to swap out the parsley and basil for fresh thyme and rosemary.
  • Pasta: The great thing about this sauce is that it is pretty universal (like marinara) when it comes to what kinds of pasta you can use with it. I prefer to use penne because the bits of shallots and bacon always end up finding their way into the round openings in the penne which is always a pleasant surprise. And, it's a classic!

Tips for Making the Best Penne Alla Vodka

  1. Add water if needed: If you find that the sauce becomes too thick after adding the pasta, add a bit of water (ideally the water you cooked the pasta in) until the sauce becomes the proper consistency.
  2. Turn it into a pasta bake: Try tossing this pasta into a casserole dish, topping it with mozzarella (or another cheese that browns well like provolone) and baking it until golden brown for an epic pasta bake for the whole family.

This Penne Alla Vodka is the perfect dinner to serve up any day of the week! It also makes for great levtovers and you could even prepare the sauce in advance.

Cheers and eat well!

Penne Alla Vodka

This smooth and creamy Penne Alla Vodka is the perfect cozy meal and is done in 40 minutes max! Enriched with the salty-porkiness of bacon and finished with fresh bursts of basil and parsley, this pasta has it all!















  • 6 slices of bacon thick-cut bacon
  • 2 whole shallots (peeled & minced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled & chopped)
  • ¼ cup of vodka
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce or your favorite store-bought jarred tomato sauce
  • Penne pasta
  • Fresh basil (picked & chiffonade)
  • Fresh italian parsley (picked & chopped)


Making the Sauce:

  1. Begin by taking your 6 slices of bacon and laying them across your cutting board so that they lay perpendicular to you. Cut each strip into thin slices, working from right-to-left, until all the strips of bacon are now cut into thin strips about the thickness of a quarter.
  2. Put a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove and turn the heat on high. After about 20 seconds, add a splash of oil to the pan, followed by the cut bacon. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the bacon bits are about 80% cooked and have just a little uncooked-rubbery fat left (about 3-5 minutes).
  3. Once the bacon is almost fully cooked, about 80%, add the shallots and continue to cook, on a low heat, for about 1-2 minutes or until the shallots start to become translucent.
  4. Add the chopped garlic and gently toast for another 1-2 minutes or until the garlic is no longer raw.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and the freshly ground nutmeg and toast slightly for another 30 seconds to bring out the aromas of both ingredients.
  6. Deglaze the pan by adding the vodka, while stirring (turn off the heat before doing this to prevent the vodka from flaming up), to remove all the cooked bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Continue to cook off the raw alcohol for 1 minute.
  7. After 1 minute, add the tomato sauce, along with the heavy cream and cook on a low heat, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat pasta.
  8. Turn off the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, along with the fresh basil and parsley. Stir to incorporate the ingredients and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Cooking the Pasta:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a few pinches of salt to the water.
  2. Cook your pasta in accordance with the instructions on the package and strain off the pasta when it has reached an al dente texture.

Finishing the Pasta

  1. Once the pasta is cooked and strained, add it back to the pot you cooked it in, along with the vodka sauce.
  2. Cook the pasta on a low heat for 1-2 minutes, just long enough for some of the pasta to absorb the sauce.
  3. Transfer the pasta, coated with the sauce, to your desired plates to serve and top with additional freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and enjoy.


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August 16, 2021
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