Chef John's Penne with Vodka Sauce Recipe -
Chef John's Penne with Vodka Sauce Recipe
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Chef John’s Penne with Vodka Sauce
Discover what a splash of vodka can do for creamy tomato sauce. See more

Chef John's Penne with Vodka Sauce

Recipe by  

"This is the incredibly easy and always popular vodka sauce. There are certain flavors in tomatoes that are only brought out if you introduce alcohol into the sauce."

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Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 6 servings Change Servings
  • PREP

    15 mins
  • COOK

    50 mins

    1 hr 10 mins


  1. Cook and stir bacon and rosemary sprig with olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until bacon renders its fat but is not crisp, about 5 minutes. Pour vodka into the skillet, standing back to avoid any flare-ups. Raise heat to high and continue to cook until the vodka reduces to about 2 tablespoons.
  2. Pour heavy cream into skillet, stir briefly, and add black pepper; bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir until sauce has slightly reduced, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix marinara sauce and water into cream mixture and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer sauce 20 to 25 minutes to blend flavors.
  3. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Stir in penne and return to a boil. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until cooked through but still chewy, about 10 minutes; drain and return to pot. Pour sauce over penne and stir to combine. Turn off heat, cover pot with a lid, and let stand 5 minutes for pasta to absorb sauce. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
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Reviews More Reviews

Most Helpful Positive Review
Jun 09, 2014

Yay, I get to be the first again to rate another one of Chef John's masterpieces. This was outstanding!! I quadrupled this partly because we had company and the other part is we all love pasta! This was so very easy to make and using the bacon really made it stand out. I never would have thought about putting bacon in this sauce but it really adds a richness that I have never had in a vodka sauce. I made a dandelion green salad and had some garlic bread. It was so tasty and everyone was eating and so quiet that you could here a penne drop, lol!! Thanks again, Chef John :)

Most Helpful Critical Review
Apr 17, 2015

Very, very bland.


14 Ratings

Jul 15, 2014

My husband is out of town for a couple of days so I cut this recipe in half with the plans of having it tonight and tomorrow night...all I can say is I cannot wait until tomorrow night to have it again. I made it using Chef John's "tomato sauce", which is also on this site ----which is amazing in and of itself. The only changes I made were dried rosemary and half and half versus fresh and heavy cream. It is restaurant quality if not better.

Sep 13, 2014

I made this recipe last night for me and my hubby - relatively simple recipe yet full of flavor. I used about half a teaspoon of dried rosemary because I didn't have fresh on hand. Also, we like things on the spicier side so I added a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes in to the 1/2 cup of vodka about an hour before I used it in the recipe. Another Chef John keeper!

Feb 02, 2015

Fixed this for dinner except I put it in a casserole dish and covered the top with mozzarella cheese and melted in the oven and browned the cheese. some home made garlic bread and Bam! Im a hero in my house :D great recipe thanks.

Sep 25, 2014

Very, very bland. I was looking forward to this dish, very disappointing definitely not making this again.

Jun 13, 2015

My wife and I loved every flavor. We followed the recipe and it came out great.


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  • Calories
  • 550 kcal
  • 27%
  • Carbohydrates
  • 68.4 g
  • 22%
  • Cholesterol
  • 42 mg
  • 14%
  • Fat
  • 19.3 g
  • 30%
  • Fiber
  • 10.6 g
  • 43%
  • Protein
  • 16.1 g
  • 32%
  • Sodium
  • 778 mg
  • 31%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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