Dinner Recipes

Spicy Penne alla Vodka

In this classic red sauce, we use vodka instead of red wine. It lightens up the cream and Parmesan in the sauce, giving it a subtle, grainy depth and bite without adding any real flavor. The result is a sauce that’s rich and deeply satisfying — and yet also light and spicy. A handful of chopped basil tossed in at the end is also a wonderful foil for the heavy notes, the perfect fresh finish.

We love this recipe because it’s not fussy, but it is special. It’s very easy to prep and cook, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday supper, when you want the pleasure of making something delicious for your family, but not the anxiety of a long-winded, messy project.

It’s substantive enough that you could serve it as a one-bowl meal. But if you feel like squaring things up, add some Italian bread and a green salad — and by all means, a bottle of red wine.

Servings: 4 to 6


16 oz Ronzoni Penne Rigate
2 Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
¾ cup vodka
1 can crushed tomatoes (14 ½ oz)
¾ cup half-and-half
Flake salt, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Basil, to taste, chopped


  1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain it and reserve 1 to 1 ½ cups cooking water.
  2. Add the olive oil to a large skillet, and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the vodka, stir, and allow to reduce for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the puréed tomatoes and half-and-half to the skillet and simmer the mixture for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. Add more if you prefer a spicier sauce.
  5. Keeping the heat low, toss the cooked pasta into the sauce, and add reserved pasta water a little at a time until desired consistency is reached. Turn the heat off and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Add Parmesan cheese, mix well, and then sprinkle on the basil and serve.

Recipe source: Ronzoni