Penne Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce

Vodka Cream Sauce

Rachael Ray calls this her “You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta.”  Although this is a bit of an exaggeration I will agree that it can make you a few friends for life who will ALWAYS want to come to your house for dinner.  When made with roasted vine ripened tomatoes like those available right now it is hard to find a pasta sauce that has more flavor. 

Vodka Cream Sauce

Garnish pasta with a chiffonade (“Made in rags” in French) of basil if desired.  If you are unfamiliar with this knife technique you can find instructions HERE.  I made a few changes to Rachael’s recipe and I encourage you to adjust it to your taste as well. I doubled the amount of tomatoes and added the step of roasting them in the oven…so worth the extra time it takes.  I also added freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving.  I did add a little extra cream…but I won’t tell if you won’t.  If you would like to check out Rachael’s recipe you can find it HERE.

roma tomato image 2

My vegetable garden gets smaller every year and I am finally down to several large pots of tomatoes.  I had no idea how successful I would be with one yellow cherry tomato, one slicing tomato plant (a friend gave it to me who didn’t know the variety) and one Roma tomato plant. All I can say is that I have more tomatoes than I can use.  The plants seemed to love their pots and produced abundant crops for weeks.  I used a good potting soil and occasional waterings with a mild MiracleGro solution and that’s all the work required. I like Romas for sauces because they are a meaty tomato that has some body to it even after an hour and a half roasting in the oven.  The flavor intensified and they get sweeter as they cook.  My favorite recipe for oven roasted tomatoes with olive oil and herbs can be found HERE if you would like it. 

PicMonkey Collage - Vodka Pasta Sauce

 Remove the stems and cut into quarters 4 pounds of tomatoes, preferably Romas.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, cover and roast in a 375 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours.   The skins easily slip off at this point if you prefer removing them.  Two 28-ounce cans of  good quality canned whole  tomatoes, drained, can be used  if fresh aren’t available. Just season, cover, and roast the required length of time.

PicMonkey Collage - Vodka Pasta Sauce 2

Combine the roasted tomatoes with the sauteed onion mixture and puree with an immersion blender.  Mix in the cream, check seasonings, add to hot pasta along with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and serve.  Be prepared to make friends for life.

This post is linked to FOODIE FRIDAY at Rattlebridge Farm

Penne Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 28-oz cans peeled tomatoes or 4-5 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil,
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
  3. Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
  6. Place the tomato mixture in a blender or food processor and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
  7. Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh basil and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh basil on each plate.


  1. says

    Everyone loves this sauce and I still haven’t tried it… Gotta correct that! No doubt your step of roasting the tomatoes brings a lot of flavor Cathy! Congrats on the great success with container gardening, it can be a challenge. Happy Labor Day:@)
    Happier Than A Pig in Mud recently posted..Green Apple SalsaMy Profile

    • says

      The flavor is really delicious, Becca, but it isn’t something that jumps out at you. It would be interesting to try the sauce “with” and “without” to make a judgement. This is a classic pasta sauce so I’ll add it for tradition’s sake. It’s so good.
      Cathy recently posted..Penne Pasta with Vodka Cream SauceMy Profile

  2. Pondside says

    Oh my goodness – mouth watering all over the key board up here. This sounds delicious, and just the thing for the first cool evening.

  3. says

    I’m not a sauce person, but I do love vodka sauce. In fact, I love it on pizza. I’ve used a similar recipe, though I’ve never roasted the tomatoes–will definitely do so very soon so I can take advantage of the last days of farmers’ markets. On my pizza I use fresh mozzarella, diced breaded chicken breast (when I have it), and basil. Can’t wait to try the new and improved sauce!

  4. says

    We have 4 plants this year and getting tons of tomatoes. We even took a bunch to church and gave them away. Then made catsup and jam with some of them and still have alot. Loving them. Your recipe may be the next thing on the list.
    Marilyn recently posted..Monday’s QuotesMy Profile

  5. says

    Vodka sauce is one of my favorites, Cathy! It always seems to decadent because of the cream and vodka additions, so I save it for very special occasions.

    I always grew tomatoes and peppers in pots when I live in NYC with good results. This summer I limited myself to herbs, and they were all doing well until we had a massive hail storm a few weeks ago. My basil was destroyed but my sage survived. I’m sure if I grew tomatoes they would have all been destroyed, so I’m discouraged about trying that next year. I might try growing zucchini in a pot instead–they are pretty indestructible! 😉
    Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti recently posted..A Taste of Colorado FestivalMy Profile

  6. says

    Having more tomatoes than you can use is always a good thing in my book. I’ve heard wonderful things about the vodka sauce, but have yet to try it. I enjoyed reading Becca’s comment & your answer to “does the vodka make a difference” since the sauce is so rich and decadent to begin with. Guess the only way to know is to try both versions. Who wouldn’t be happy to make that experiment :)
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen recently posted..Maque Choux Soup + What does Temper have to do with CookingMy Profile

  7. says

    This looks much better than the penne I paid for on friday at lunch.

    I love tomatoes and this is a good way to use the excess when the garden is producing.

  8. says

    My tomato plants are nearly bare now, but I sure did have an abundance… finally! Mmmm… I see a theme here… vodka. You’ve got me adding it to my ice cream and now my sauces. I’m also using it in homemade vanilla, looks like I need to make another trip to the liquor store. : )
    Cindy recently posted..Bounty at last!My Profile

  9. says

    I am sooooo making this one…and SOON! We’ve had it at Anthony’s Little Italy in downtown Cleveland’s & loved it. I’ve only tried to duplicate his recipe once. Your version sounds very similar.
    Thanks for sharing it & your lovely photos….always mouth wateringly beautiful.
    Rettabug recently posted..Bridal ShowerMy Profile

  10. says

    I do a dish very similar to this, and everyone always loves it. It had fallen to the back of my memory,though and I have not made mine in a while. I think I will change things up around here and make yours. It looks beautiful. And so do your tomatoes.

  11. says

    I had to laugh because I have a friend who told his now wife, his then co-worker that he had better not make his marinara or she would want to marry him. Well, he did and she did!!

    This looks scrumptious. I have bought it but never made it. With fall it is time for comfort foods like this!
    Jacqueline recently posted..Harvest Grapes TablescapeMy Profile

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