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Craving a delicious and satisfying pasta dish but short on time? Look no further than Penne alla Vodka! This classic Italian dish features tender penne pasta coated in a creamy tomato sauce infused with a touch of vodka for a surprising depth of flavor. Believe it or not, this restaurant-worthy dish can be whipped up at home in under 30 minutes with pantry staples you probably already have on hand.

Enjoy your Penne alla Vodka alongside these delightful pairings: a fresh, crisp green salad drizzled with tangy vinaigrette, a few slices of robust French bread, tender sautéed green beans, and finish off with an easy, creamy 10-minute Tiramisu for dessert.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Quick and Easy: Pasta alla Vodka comes together in under 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights or whenever a pasta craving strikes.
  • Pantry-Friendly: Made with everyday ingredients you likely already have on hand, there’s no need for a special grocery trip.
  • Flavorful: The combination of creamy tomato sauce and a hint of vodka creates a complex and satisfying flavor profile.
  • Customizable: Feel free to add your favorite protein or vegetables for a more substantial meal.
  • Single Serving: This recipe yields the perfect amount for one, so you don’t have to worry about leftovers.

What Is Vodka Sauce?

Our single serving easy Vodka Sauce recipe is a delightful blend of tomatoes, cream, onions, and a hint of vodka, resulting in a creamy, smooth sauce with a rich yet mildly spicy flavor. The vodka, while not overpowering, enhances the sauce’s overall taste and texture, making it silky and luxurious. This perfectly portioned recipe is ideal for those busy weeknights or when you crave a satisfying meal just for yourself, ensuring no leftovers or waste while maintaining the classic, beloved balance of flavors found in traditional Vodka Sauce.

Ingredients

pasta with vodka sauce ingredients on a kitchen counter.

If you have any ingredients leftover from this pasta with vodka sauce recipe, check out our Leftover Ingredients Recipe Finder.

  • Pasta: While penne is traditional, any pasta works well. Shapes like penne or rigatoni are great for holding more sauce. Use 2/3 cup (2 ounces) of dried pasta. Got leftover pasta? Use it in Chicken Paprika or Baked Ziti.
  • Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is my go-to for its unrefined, high-quality, and rich olive flavor, packed with vitamins and minerals. However, light olive oil is a suitable alternative.
  • Onions and garlic: Essential for adding depth to the vodka pasta sauce, so don’t skip them.
  • Tomatoes: My choice is canned diced tomatoes. For the recipe, take half of a 14.5-ounce can, including some juice, which amounts to 1 cup (218 grams/7.7 ounces). Simply fill a 1-cup measuring cup with the diced tomatoes and their juice to get the right amount. If you prefer, you can substitute this with 1 cup of canned whole tomatoes (just crush them by hand) or 1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes. Use leftover canned tomatoes in Tomato Soup, Goulash, or Jambalaya.
  • Vodka: Choose a brand you like. I enjoy Tito’s from Austin, Texas. Vodka introduces a subtle heat and sharpness, balancing the tomatoes’ sweetness and cream’s richness. If you don’t drink vodka but still want to use it, consider buying a small bottle similar to the ones they serve on airplane flights. If you prefer not to use vodka, replace it with water and a squeeze of lemon. Consider using some of your vodka to make a Moscow Mule, Bloody Mary, or a Dirty Shirley.
  • Red pepper flakes: These add a gentle heat to the dish. Leave them out if you prefer a milder taste.
  • Heavy cream: Either heavy cream or whipping cream will create a smooth, rich sauce. We use heavy cream in many of our single serving and small batch recipes. You might like to consider using any leftover cream in Chicken Tikka Masala, Lasagna Soup, or Caramelized Banana Pudding!
  • Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated or shredded Parmesan is recommended for better melting. Asiago cheese is a good substitute.

Penne alla Vodka: Take It Up A Notch!

This classic Penne alla Vodka recipe is delicious as is, but you can easily add protein or vegetables for a more substantial and flavorful meal. Here are some inspiring variations to explore:

  • Pancetta or Bacon: Enhance the sauce with crispy pancetta or bacon. For a smoky and savory twist, start by frying an ounce of pancetta or a strip of bacon until crisp, then continue with the recipe as written. Crumble the cooked pancetta/bacon and toss it into the finished pasta before adding the parmesan cheese.
  • Spicy or Sweet Italian Sausage: Sauté 3 ounces of crumbled Italian sausage (hot or sweet) until browned, then remove and drain. Start the recipe as written, and toss the cooked sausage into the finished dish before adding the parmesan cheese.
  • Rotisserie chicken: Incorporate shredded or diced chicken for a quick and easy protein boost. This is a fantastic way to use leftover cooked chicken.
  • Cooked shrimp: Add cooked shrimp to the pasta and vodka sauce just before topping with parmesan cheese.
  • Vegetables: Sauté chopped vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, or mushrooms along with the onions. Continue with the recipe as written for a vibrant and veggie-packed pasta dish.
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How To Make Penne alla Vodka

These step-by-step photos and instructions help you visualize how to make this easy pasta recipe. See the recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.

  1. Start by boiling water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add the pasta, reducing the heat to keep a steady, gentle boil. Cook the pasta until it’s tender, which should take about 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
penne pasta cooking in boiling water in a pot on the stove.
  1. In a 10-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring now and then.
  2. Next, mix in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking for an additional minute. Remember, for a milder sauce, you can skip the red pepper flakes or use a smaller amount.
onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes cooking in a skillet.
  1. Pour in the vodka and let it simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
vodka cooking down with onions in a skillet.
  1. Add the diced tomatoes with some of their juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir everything together. Bring this mixture to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and let it cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
canned tomatoes simmering in a skillet.
  1. Now, stir in the heavy cream and continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Finish off by mixing in the shredded parmesan cheese.
vodka sauce simmering on the stove.
  1. Toss the cooked pasta back into the pan, coating it well with the sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of extra parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy your delicious meal!
cooked penne in vodka sauce in a small skillet.

Expert Tips

  • Boil Pasta Perfectly: Don’t overcook the pasta! Aim for al dente, which means cooked but still slightly firm to the bite.
  • Sauce Consistency: Simmer the sauce until it reaches your desired thickness.
  • Balance the Flavors: Adjust the salt according to your taste.
  • Garnish Right: Add Parmesan cheese right before serving for the best flavor.
  • For a Richer Sauce Add Butter! Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the finished sauce.

RELATED: The Best Soup Recipes For One

vodka sauce with pasta in a green bowl next to a white napkin.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store leftover Penne alla Vodka?

Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Can I make Penne alla Vodka ahead of time?

While the sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated gently, it’s best to cook the pasta fresh for the best texture.

Can I make Penne alla Vodka without vodka?

Technically, yes – you can make the sauce without it. However, adding vodka does change the sauce’s flavor significantly, lending a slight heat and a sharpness that beautifully complements the sweetness of the tomatoes and cream. While you can omit it, I do recommend using vodka to get the authentic taste and experience of vodka sauce. After all, it’s not quite vodka sauce without the vodka, is it?

Does the vodka cook off when making vodka sauce?

Yes. As the sauce simmers the alcohol evaporates.

Does the vodka make the sauce taste like alcohol?

 No, the vodka cooks off during the simmering process and simply enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.

Can I use fresh tomatoes?

Yes, but you may need to cook them longer to reduce and thicken.

How can I thicken Penne alla Vodka sauce?

Don’t worry, there are a few easy ways to achieve the perfect consistency for your vodka sauce:
Simmer it longer: Let the sauce simmer gently for a few extra minutes. As the water evaporates, the sauce will naturally thicken up.
Add a touch more cream: Slowly stir in a bit more heavy cream until the sauce reaches your desired thickness.
Boost the cheese: Grated parmesan cheese adds both flavor and thickening power. Stir in extra cheese until the sauce reaches your preferred consistency.

What does vodka sauce taste like?

Vodka sauce is a velvety sauce with a subtle kick from the vodka. Enriched with heavy cream, the sauce has a rich consistency and a mildly spicy undertone, making it an ideal complement to pasta.

RELATED: Single Serving Comfort Food Recipes

Other Single Serving Pasta Sauce Recipes

Ways To Use Leftover Ingredients

If you have any ingredients leftover from this recipe, check out our Leftover Ingredients Recipe Finder or you might like to consider using them in any of these single serving and small batch recipes:

RELATED: 20 Single Serving Meatless Recipes

For information on the cooking and baking dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.

For examples of the dishes used at One Dish Kitchen, please visit our Store page.

If you’ve tried this pasta with vodka sauce or any recipe on One Dish Kitchen please let me know how you liked it by rating the recipe and telling me about it in the comment section below.

Also, if you take a picture please tag us on Instagram (@onedishkitchen) we’d love to see it!


Your Cooking For One Source
Because you’re worth it

Penne alla Vodka For One

5 from 19 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
Discover how to prepare an easy Penne alla Vodka for one! Follow our quick, simple recipe for a delicious, gourmet-like pasta meal.

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 ounces dried penne pasta (⅔ cup dry pasta = 1 ¼ cup cooked pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 clove garlic –minced
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes *see notes below
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • cup shredded parmesan cheese –plus more for topping
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Instructions 

  • Boil the Pasta: Start by boiling water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pasta once it's boiling, then lower the heat to keep a steady, gentle boil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until the pasta is tender, then drain it and set aside.
  • Sauté Onions: In a 10-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes: Next, mix in minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking for another minute while stirring often.
    Tip: For a milder sauce, you can skip the red pepper flakes or use less.
  • Cook with Vodka: Pour in the vodka and let it cook for 2 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Add Tomatoes and Seasonings: Now, add the diced tomatoes (with some of their juice), salt, and pepper to the skillet. Stir the mixture, bring it to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add Cream and Cheese: Pour in the heavy cream, simmering for 2-3 minutes while stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Then stir in the shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • Combine Pasta and Sauce: Finally, add the cooked pasta back to the skillet. Toss everything together to coat the pasta well. Serve in a bowl and top with extra Parmesan cheese for a delicious finish.

Video

3 Crazy Good Pasta Dinners - Quick and Easy Dinner For One

Notes

    • Boil Pasta Perfectly: Don’t overcook the pasta! Aim for al dente, which means cooked but still slightly firm to the bite.
    • Sauce Consistency: Simmer the sauce until it reaches your desired thickness.
    • Balance the Flavors: Adjust the salt according to your taste.
    • Garnish Right: Add Parmesan cheese right before serving for the best flavor.
    • For a Richer Sauce Add Butter! Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the finished sauce.
 
Note on Canned Diced Tomatoes: For the recipe, take half of a 14.5-ounce can, including some juice, which amounts to 1 cup (218 grams/7.7 ounces). Simply fill a 1-cup measuring cup with the diced tomatoes and their juice to get the right amount. If you prefer, you can substitute this with 1 cup of canned whole tomatoes (just crush them by hand) or 1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 584kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 35g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 63mg, Sodium: 777mg, Potassium: 696mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 1012IU, Vitamin C: 29mg, Calcium: 417mg, Iron: 4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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I’m Joanie and I’m incredibly happy you’re here! Our aim is to inspire individuals with access to single serving recipes, education, and a supportive community that will enable them to enjoy the preparation of a meal that will nourish both body and soul.

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32 Comments

  1. Vanessa says:

    Made this Penne ala Vodka recipe and it was extraordinary! It is better than restaurant quality. I have told everyone about this recipe and website (YouTube videos too). I’m newly single again and found myself eating takeout or frozen meals. After gaining 10 lbs (!!!) I decided I needed to explore a new way of cooking. I’d tried making family favorites but after two days of leftovers I was over it. No I’m cooking and enjoying it. Thank you, Joanie, for making good meals accessible again.

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      I’m so happy you’re finding our recipes helpful! Thank you.

  2. Brenda Brydges says:

    what a wonderful recipe! Thank you for this. Used one whole can (the smaller can) of diced tomatoes and have enough for a second serving…. Holding myself back LOL
    Highly recommended!

  3. Valerie Lawrance says:

    I absolutely love this recipe, it is delicious. I have made it many times now, and have sent the recipe on to my sister and friend. I recommend it to everyone.

  4. Valerie says:

    I just cooked this recipe for my dinner, it was absolutely delicious. I didn’t have any leftovers as I loved it so much. Cooked as per the recipe, next time I might add extra vegetables, I guess that would mean extra vodka 😜 😋😋

  5. Anonymous says:

    Help! I am an inexperienced cook, but all of the recipes I have tried from your site have worked out just great. I clearly did something wrong here.

    I followed the recipe basically exactly and everything was going fine until the end when I added 1/3 cup grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese that I purchased already grated. The sauce began to clump and became stringy, stocking to the bottom of the skillet, and the cheese ruined the sauce and I had no idea how to fix the problem. I did use nonfat milk instead of cream so perhaps I should have just skipped the cheese at the end or used shredded cheese or shredded it myself (which I would prefer not to do)?

    If the nonfat milk was a problem, do you have a work-around for that? I have had penne a la vodka with nonfat milk many times at a restaurant (now gone) that I used to frequent and it was delicious.

    Thx in advance for the response.

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      I’m so glad you are enjoying our recipes. It sounds like the issue was with the pre-grated cheese. Packaged grated Parmesan cheese contains preservatives and does not melt well. I always recommend using freshly grated (or shredded) cheese because it melts better and makes sauces creamy and smooth. I mention this in the Ingredient Notes section of the post. The nonfat milk should not have been a problem. Using cream will make the sauce more rich, creamy, and thick. Since nonfat milk does not contain any fat, the sauce will be much thinner and less rich.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Thanks so much for the prompt and very clear response (just like all the communication on your site). As I am inexperienced in the kitchen, I read your recipes very carefully and I did see your comment about the benefits of grating/shedding the cheese yourself, but I thought I could work around it. I won’t try that again in any recipe, and thank you for explaining that it is because of the preservatives in pre-grated/shredded cheeses.

        You and other readers may be interested to read that I was looking for a 5”x5” ceramic baking dish similar to the quality of the Le Creuset dish, which as we know is no longer sold individually, featured on your site. My local hardware store stocks Peugeot, a heritage French brand apparently famous for pepper mills, that makes an individual size that is still made in France ($25.00). Below is a link to the American distributor of that product. The size is listed as “18 cm – 7”, but that includes the handles. The inside is 5” x 5”. It appears to be only available in matte grey (the color I purchased) at the moment, but previously it was available in red and ecru (there may be an error on the website as it lists the red and ecru as “18 cm – 8.6”, which is an incorrect conversion – there is a toll-free number). There is also an individual loaf pan (7” long inside/$25.00) that I purchased in a glossy red/orange.

        Again, thank you, for such a prompt, thorough response. Much appreciated.

  6. J.Hegyi says:

    Great recipe.

  7. Ann Thornton says:

    You do a fantastic service to we who live alone, but like to live we! BIG, BIG THANKS TO YOU JOANIE! Best wishes, Ann Thornton, Victoria, Australia.

  8. Terri R says:

    I made this dish with shrimp and light cream. It was AMAZINGLY simple and delicious. I’ve tried five of Joanie’s recipes. ALL 5 were delicious. This is definitely a keeper!

  9. Stacy says:

    Another favorite, so good!! Never had it before until I came across this recipe and made it, so glad I did!!!

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Diane Groves says:

    I’m glad I found your page. Life saver!!

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      Hi Diane,

      I’m glad you found us too! Welcome!!

      Joanie