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Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka
Anthony Michael Contrino
Cook Time:
20 mins
Prep Time:
5 mins

Chef notes

Vodka sauce is one of my all-time favorites. If you have some really good tomato sauce on hand, it comes together in less than 30 minutes! If it's the only thing I'm making for dinner, I like to bulk it up with some grilled chicken and mozzarella or pan-seared shrimp.

Technique tip: Be careful when adding the vodka. You can pull the skillet from the flame to be safe to ensure that the alcohol does not ignite.

Swap option: For added protein and to bulk up the dish, add 3/4-pound cubed grilled chicken and 8 ounces of halved mozzarella balls.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, small dice
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (recipe linked above)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper



In a large, high-sided skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.


Add the pancetta and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Carefully add the vodka. Cook until reduced by half, for a minute or two. Add the cream and tomato sauce, then whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat.


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook 2 minutes short of al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before straining.


Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in. Add the vodka sauce, reserved pasta water and pecorino cheese. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.


Serve immediately and top with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.