Spicy Penne alla Vodka Recipe

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In 2021, I became a traveling foodie. I disguised it as a “photographer”, but whatever. It is what it is. Everywhere I travel, I research the best restaurants in the area before the hotels. Because, you know…priorities. I had a shoot in Chicago earlier this month. My model/friend recommended that we try Tavern on the Rush in the city’s famed “Viagra Triangle”. It’s an intimate spot with a quaint, yet swank vibe. Warm, accommodating staff and extra boozy signature drinks. So, naturally I wanted to move in permanently. Why in the hell is this turning into a review? Long story longer, our waitress recommended that I’d try their creamy, tomatoey, wine based pasta. Best pasta sauce of my damn life!! So, I recreated it. Duh! Keep scrolling.

Don’t Burn Yo Damn House Down!

So, yeah. There’s alcohol in this recipe. No, it will not get your kids drunk. But, it will start a flame that could claim the lives of your eyebrows if you’re not careful. TAKE THE PAN AWAY FROM THE STOVE BEFORE ADDING THE VODKA. I mean it! Don’t watch my tutorial and think you’re about that life. I barely am. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the stove and THEN stir in the vodka. Place the pan back on the stove and slowly bring it back to a low simmer. Cook until the alcohol reduces and the firefighters on duty can enjoy a peaceful evening. Amen. 

Dried herbs go in first, fresh go in last. Remember this!

Don’t be a Cheapskate

If you want restaurant quality food, get quality ingredients. Don’t break the bank either. Get what you can afford. But, if you can splurge for once, do that sh*t! Especially, when it comes to the cheese! Fresh Parmesan Reggiano will change your pasta loving life! Oh! And use a good quality vodka. Something you would want to drink. 

And What Else?

I’m trying to figure out what else to tell you about this pasta. The longer my body is on the page, the more dinero in my pocketbook. You feel me? I don’t want to type all of this as much as you just wanted to click a button and get a recipe. That’s why I put that Jump to Recipe button up top. You’re welcome. Get me paid, I get you fed. But, yeah. Add any protein you’d like to this pasta. I throw some chicken breast in the air fryer and get busy! Shrimp is flames in this stuff, too! I know you’ll love it. If you read all of this, I love the entire hell out of you. 


B. Coop

Spicy Penne alla Vodka

A simple recipe for a restaurant quality spicy, creamy vodka sauce! Crushed red pepper flakes and fresh basil add all of the flavor for this Italian favorite!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 16 oz penne pasta
  • 1-2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup diced onions
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • 3-4 leaves of torn basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chiffonade basil for garnish
  • Shredded fontina cheese optional


  1. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat
  2. Add the butter
  3. As the butter melts, stir in the onions
  4. Sauté for 5 mins or until onions start to brown lightly
  5. Add the garlic; sauté for 30 secs. Do NOT burn the garlic! I mean it!
  6. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, oregano/Italian seasoning, onion and garlic powders.
  7. Stir well
  8. IMPORTANT: Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove before adding in the vodka.
  9. Stir in the vodka well.
  10. Then, return the pan to the stove and heat the pan on low. Be very careful of flames!
  11. Bring it to a low simmer and stir until the vodka reduces; about 2 minutes.
  12. Pour in the crushed tomatoes
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
  14. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Be sure to leave a slight crack in the lid.
  15. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  16. Stir in the heavy cream.
  17. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  18. Cover and continue to simmer on low until the penne is ready.
  19. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  20. Add the penne pasta and cook al dente according to package instructions.
  21. Drain the pasta, but reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce later. (Optional, I don’t. But, yeah.)
  22. Fold the pasta into the sauce.
  23. Add the parmesan reggiano cheese and the torn basil.
  24. Stir well.
  25. Serve with more chiffonade basil, fontina cheese, and or crushed red pepper flakes if desired.
  26. Enjoy!