Chef John's Penne with Vodka Sauce


This is the incredibly easy and always popular vodka sauce made with pancetta, cream, vodka, and marinara sauce. There are certain flavors in tomatoes that are only brought out if you introduce alcohol into the sauce.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
50 mins
Additional Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 10 mins


  • 4 ounces pancetta bacon, diced

  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • ½ cup vodka

  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce

  • ¾ cup water

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) package multigrain penne pasta (such as Barilla®)

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook and stir pancetta and rosemary sprig with olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until pancetta 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 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 the pot. Pour sauce over penne and stir to combine. Turn off heat, cover the pot with a lid, and let stand for 5 minutes to allow pasta to absorb sauce. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Cook's Note:

Feel free to use bacon if you don't have pancetta.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

602 Calories
25g Fat
68g Carbs
16g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 602
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 25g 32%
Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Cholesterol 48mg 16%
Sodium 791mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 68g 25%
Dietary Fiber 11g 38%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 16g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 118mg 9%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 460mg 10%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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