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Secret Ingredient Penne alla Vodka

yellow ceramic bowl of pasta with vodka sauce sprinkled with parmesan and parsley

I’m ALL about that Sunday gravy. Last week I was scrambling to throw together pasta when I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. I rarely have vodka in the house, but I’ve been working on infusing roasted pumpkin in vodka for a Harry Potter inspired cocktail (stay tuned…) so it happened to catch my eye. Vodka sauce! Which I love and never make because as I just mentioned, I rarely have vodka in the house! I’ve also been obsessing over gochujang, a spicy Korean chile paste. I can’t stop eating it or trying to find more dishes to stick it in. Serious obsession here.jar of gochujang with labelI added a small amount to the pasta and it totally transformed the vodka sauce. The combination of tangy flavor from the vodka and spicy, sweet kick from the gochujang is super wonderful. A little gochujang goes a long way – I’ve now made this a few times and varied the amount of paste (solely because I generally eyeball measurements using a regular spoon) and last time added so much that neither my husband nor toddler wanted to eat it.orange le creuset dutch oven cooking pastaThis dish comes together really quickly – I made the sauce in 15 minutes. If you play your cards right and start the sauce as the same time as you boil water and cook pasta, this meal happens in less than half an hour.a blue ceramic bowl of pasta

Penne alla Vodka

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Prep Time: 5 Cooking Time: 35


  • 1 lb pasta, such as penne
  • 1 onion diced, about 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 2 tsp gochujang (optional)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4-ish oz creme fraiche plus a pour of heavy cream OR just use heavy cream, 1/4 to 1/2 cup
  • 2 TBS butter
  • Parmesan to serve



Cook your pasta - reserve some of the pasta water in case you want to adjust the sauce later.


Heat some olive oil over medium heat in a large pot (if you plan to pour the pasta into the pot to mix with the sauce before serving, which I recommend, make sure your pot is large enough!) then saute the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring.


Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.


Carefully add the vodka and stir to combine, scraping the pan if any onions have stuck.


Melt the butter, then add the gochujang, tomatoes, and parsley.


Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes until slightly thickened, season with salt and pepper.


Lower the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and/or cream to your preference, and keep on low.


Before serving, stir in the hot pasta to combine and taste for seasoning.


I've eyeballed the gochujang every time I make this dish. Taste it first - the amount of heat can vary by brand, so use your judgement/tongue to decide how spicy you want this sauce to be! I prefer a chunky tomato sauce. If you want a totally smooth vodka sauce, use something other than crushed.

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