authentic pasta dishes
authentic pasta dishes
authentic pasta dishes


Best Penne alla Vodka Sauce Recipe by Russo’s New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen

Vodka sauce is a pink sauce with a splash of vodka that exists somewhere between a tomato sauce and an Alfredo sauce. It is rich, luscious, and is one of the best homemade pasta sauces you’ll ever learn to make at home.

enne alla vodka sauce

Vodka sauce is a tomato-based cream sauce that is made with vodka. The vodka adds a distinctly sharp, bright flavor and helps emulsify the cream and tomatoes together. It’s a very comforting sauce that comes together quickly and pairs perfectly with pasta.

Chef Russo likes to add prosciutto ham for more intense flavor than pancetta, and he replaces parmigiana cheese with pecorino Romano cheese.

Penne alla Vodka – perfectly cooked al dente pasta cooked in a creamy and vibrant tomato and vodka infused sauce that’s seasoned with fresh basil and Romano cheese. Talk about delicious dinner recipe!

Ingredients for Penne alla Vodka Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ lb. Prosciutto, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato purée
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • ½ cup Romano cheese, grated. For serving


  • Pinch fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

How to Make Vodka Sauce

  1. First, cut the into prosciutto into slices. Add a drizzle of olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook to render out the fat, stirring occasionally. You want the pancetta or prosciutto to be slightly crispy.
  2. Next, stir in the onion and garlic and cook until slightly soft. Add the crushed red pepper flakes.
  3. Then, carefully pour in the vodka, scraping the pan a little to deglaze. Let it cook down and reduce by half.
  4. Next, add in one can of San Marzano peeled, hand-crushed tomatoes. Add the tomatoes (crushing them as you go) and tomato sauce from the can. Add in a ½ can of water, and then let everything come to a simmer. Cover and cook to reduce and concentrate the flavors.
  5. Finally, stir in the cream until the sauce emulsifies and becomes pink. Add the cooked penne pasta, fresh chopped basil, and Romano cheese. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serves 4 to 6 people

How to Make Penne alla Vodka Sauce with Photos

Heat the olive oil and butter with the garlic and onion in a skillet over medium heat.

How to make penne alla vodka sauce

Sauté the onion until it is tender and slightly transparent. Add the chopped prosciutto and cook a further 2-4 minutes, or until the prosciutto begins to crisp along the edges.

proscuitto in penne alla vodka sauce

Pour in the vodka and bring to a brisk simmer. Cook until the smell of alcohol dissipates. Next, add the peeled, hand crushed tomatoes, plus the purée from the can, and half can of water. Bring to a simmer for 4 to 5 min again. Season with salt, pepper, and basil to taste. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Turn off the heat while the pasta cooks.

crushed tomatoes in vodka sauce

When the pasta water reaches a rolling boil, salt it generously and add the penne. Cook for 7 min until al dente as directed or until al dente to your taste.

When the pasta is nearly finished, turn the sauce heat back on and stir in just enough heavy cream and Romano cheese to take the color from deep red to orange. Simmer for additional 3 to 4 minutes, then transfer the cooked pasta into the sauce using a slotted spoon. Stir all together and serve immediately.

add heavy cream to vodka sauce

The vodka flavor is in the background, with a hint of brightness of pink sauce with tiny bites of crispy prosciutto.

best penne alla vodka sauce

How to Store Penne alla Vodka Sauce:

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Leftovers freeze/reheat well, just be sure not to overcook the pasta the first time around.
  • For even better results, freeze the sauce by itself and boil fresh pasta for serving.
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authentic pasta dishes
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