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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!