My recipe for the Easiest Penne Vodka Ever will become your new favorite pasta recipe! Perfectly cooked pasta in a creamy vodka sauce wins every time!
We loves easy dinner recipes like this pasta! Also be sure and try our ULTIMATE CHICKEN MARSALA or a weekly dinner staple, CHICKEN FRIED RICE! Got beef on your mind? Don’t miss our no fail, perfect every time, BROWN GRAVY MEATLOAF!
Pasta recipes are one of our favorite things to make for dinner. Maybe it’s because pasta is such a comforting food, or maybe it’s because everyone loves it.
No complaints at the dinner table are always a good thing!
Our boys are older now so there really aren’t any complaints at dinner, they just want food and a lot of it. This penne vodka recipe is also one of their favorites. So much so that our oldest has learned to make it himself.
He doesn’t want to wait around for someone to make it for him, and a pasta recipe that’s this easy is a staple recipe that everyone should know how to make!
Penne Alla Vodka
You’ll often see “penne alla vodka” on a restaurant menu instead of penne vodka or penne with vodka sauce. The vodka practically cooks away when you make this vodka sauce properly, so don’t worry about giving it to the little kids.
Vodka sauce is such a common thing that’s loved by most kids sometimes people forget that there’s actually vodka in it until they make it from scratch at home.
Promise, it’s going to be fine. Although there is a pretty good amount of vodka in this vodka sauce recipe, it does cook out. Reducing the vodka before adding the other liquid ingredients is a key step.
Another key step to making this pasta dinner is taking the time to caramelize the onions. I talk to people all the time that say they don’t like onions – and I don’t believe them. Onions are in almost every recipe, they probably don’t even realize it. Because when onions are cooked properly they are sweet and delicious.
When not cooked properly they are crunchy and strong in flavor. Those are not delicious onions, but these caramelized onions are!
Right? I mean unless you’re eating a raw onion in a salad or on a burger…there’s no need for crunchy onions.
Simmering the sauce for the right amount of time is also a key to making this vodka sauce recipe. When you simmer the sauce for about a half an hour or so, the flavors blend together giving you that restaurant quality taste you’re looking for.
You can cook this sauce longer if you like, the sauce will reduce more and the flavor will get more intense. But for an easy dinner recipe on a weeknight, 20 minutes is all you need.
All of the flavors we have already built into this sauce is going to flavor it just perfectly. And now my favorite part of all, adding the heavy cream.
Please don’t skimp here on the cream, you won’t get that perfect tasting vodka sauce if you do. We already know that we aren’t counting calories with this pasta recipe, it’s not a light one.
Just a delicious one.
Al Dente Pasta
One of the things our son gets the most compliments on when he makes penne vodka is how he cooks the pasta perfectly. Al Dente means to the tooth, or on the firmer side when you bite into it.
Mushy pasta pretty much ruins a pasta dish, so let’s go over a few steps to help you make the perfect al dente pasta!
First, cook the pasta about 1-2 minutes shy of the package directions. The reason why you do this is because the pasta will continue to cook after you drain it. Some people run cold water over their pasta to stop the cooking but you don’t want to do that either.
Rinsing pasta with water removes all the starch that’s sticking to the pasta – which is what helps the sauce stick to that pasta when you toss it.
So have you ever been to a restaurant and you get a bowl of pasta and the sauce just seems to float right off of it? That’s because they are cooking their pasta ahead of time, rinsing it so it doesn’t stick together and then warming it right before serving.
Also, when you toss the pasta together with the warm vodka sauce it’s going to cook the pasta even further. So 1-2 minutes shy of the cooking time on the package will result in the most perfectly cooked pasta!
This recipe makes a LOT of vodka sauce. Don’t be shy when you’re pouring it on because once you start tossing the pasta together with the sauce some will absorb into the pasta.
And if you happen to have leftovers of this pasta dinner the extra sauce helps to keep the pasta saucy when it’s time to reheat it. We don’t often have leftovers of this penne vodka recipe, but when we do it warms up perfectly!
Looking For More Pasta Recipes?
Our Easiest Penne Vodka Ever is sure to become your new favorite pasta dinner! Follow a few key steps to make this vodka sauce taste like it’s from a restaurant!
1 pound penne pasta (16 ounce box)
3/4 cup onion, diced small
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on the level of spiciness you want)
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup vodka
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
Start a large pot of water over high heat to boil the pasta. Cook the penne 1-2 minutes shy of the package directions and drain. Do not rinse.
While the pasta is cooking start making the vodka sauce by heating a large skillet over low heat.
Add the oil and onions, stirring to coat the onions in the oil and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the onions have browned slightly and cooked down add the crushed red pepper flakes and the garlic. Stir and cook for a minute longer and then carefully pour in the vodka.
Let the vodka reduce until the liquid is almost gone, about 4-5 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste.
Pour the crushed tomatoes in the skillet and whisk until smooth.
Add the oregano, basil, salt and pepper, stir and simmer partially covered with a lid for 20 minutes.
Whisk in the cream to finish the sauce, taste for seasonings and remove from the heat.
Add the drained pasta back to the pot and then pour in the vodka sauce and the parmesan cheese.
Toss the pasta together with the sauce until all the pasta is well coated and serve with extra red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese (optional).
*If you are cooking on a gas stove, turn off the flame before you pour in the vodka
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