Pasta alla Penne: A Symphony of Flavors in Vodka Sauce

Wondering what’s for dinner tonight? Pasta is always a simple, delicious and quick answer

Try my Pasta alla Penne recipe that features red, ripe, roasted fresh tomatoes.

There’s something incredibly tantalizing about this beautiful dish that merges simple, high-quality ingredients into a culinary masterpiece.

Its essence encapsulates the vibrant Italian ethos of ‘less is more,’ where a few fundamental ingredients make the most delightful impact.


Pasta alla Penne is a Modern Day Rock Star Pasta

Pasta’s origins in Italy date back thousands of years, possibly to ancient Rome, or even earlier to the Etruscans with popular shapes developing over the centuries.

Penne pasta, specifically, is said to have originated in Campania, a region in southern Italy, home to other famous Italian culinary inventions like pizza.

Giovanni Battista Capurro patented a diagonal cutting machine in 1865 that cut pasta into a pen shape.

This is widely believed to be the birth of the classic penne pasta shape we know and love today.

The name ‘penne’ stems from the Italian word for ‘pen,’ due to its resemblance to an old-fashioned quill pen’s tip.

Penne comes in two main varieties: “penne lisce” and “penne rigate”. The surface of penne rigate features ridges while penne lisce has a smooth surface.

Penne rigate with its ridged surface is my recommendation for pasta alla penne as its ridges and hollow center perfectly embrace sauces, adding a sublime textural component to the dish.


Pasta alla Penne is an Orchestration of Flavors

The star of the pasta alla penne show is the vodka sauce featuring fresh tomatoes and cream.

Roast the tomatoes first which will deepen their flavor. Then you’ll add them to sautéed onions and garlic and a bit of tomato paste.

Chicken broth is added along with only two tablespoons of vodka and simmered for 10 minutes followed by the addition of cream and seasonings.

It’s a quick cook and dream come true for supper.

Only two tablespoons of vodka is needed for this sauce. With so little vodka added you may ask, why? What does it contribute?

Vodka helps to release flavors from the tomatoes that are otherwise insoluble in water or fat. A good vodka also creates a sharpness to the sauce which cuts through the cream’s richness, striking a perfect balance of flavors.

Vodka, as a spirit, was first produced around the 9th century and found its way into Italian cuisine only in the latter part of the 20th century, making the vodka sauce a relatively recent innovation.

A good substitute for vodka in this rich sauce is a splash of lemon juice.

Pasta Alla Penne with Vodka Sauce is an orchestration of flavors – an edible testament to Italian culinary finesse.

Whether it’s a family dinner or a lavish party, this dish never fails to leave a lasting impression, transporting you to the heart of Italy with each bite in record time.



Pasta alla Penne

Ready for your tastebuds to dance a jig? This lovely, luscious penne pasta dish with a Roasted Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce will do the trick. It’s simple, but packs big flavor.

  • Author: Chef Sandra Lewis


  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup onion, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 oz penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt


  • Parsley for garnish
  • Lemon to brighten the sauce


  1. Heat your oven to 450˚F.
  2. Halve the Roma tomatoes through the stem.
  3. Drizzle some olive oil on a small sheet tray. Lay the tomatoes cut side down on the sheet tray.
  4. Roast the tomatoes for 20-25 minutes until they begin to brown and have softened. Allow the tomatoes to cool Once cooled remove the skin (which will easily pull off) and dice into medium-sized chunks.
  5. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion until soft and translucent and the onion begins to brown.
  7. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes and stir in the red pepper flakes and tomato paste.
  9. Add the chicken broth and vodka.
  10. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Over the lowest heat possible, stir in the heavy cream, grated parmesan, and oregano. Heat until sauce thickens just a bit.
  12. Season as needed with kosher salt.


For easy clean up, line your sheet tray to roast the tomatoes with parchment paper.

If you don’t have vodka available, don’t despair. Brighten your sauce with a splash of fresh lemon juice. 






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