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Penne alla vodka like Gigi Hadid made on Instagram with orecchiette on a white plate garnished with fresh basil

Classic Spicy Pasta Alla Vodka

Pasta all vodka of any variety is a quick, absolutely delicious (and boozy if you want it to be) dinner.  You can certainly leave the vodka out and still enjoy a flavorful, satisfying, and inexpensive dish. Check the notes for more tips for gluten-free, vegan, and low-carb substitutions.

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x


  • Olive oil, for the pan and coating the cooked pasta
  • 1 pound or package of dried penne or pasta of choice, cooked al dente per package directions
  • 2 to 4 ounces of bacon or pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot or ½ of a yellow onion, minced
  • Up to 1 tablespoon of dried red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon will give you a mildly spicy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, optional
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (use an entire 6-ounce can if omitting tomatoes)
  • 1 14-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, blended until smooth
  • ⅓ cup of vodka 
  • ⅔ cup of heavy cream
  • Grated or shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, Grano Padano, or Pecorino Romano 
  • About 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • Chopped fresh herbs such as basil, Italian parsley, or green onions
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, to taste 


Measure and have ready all of your ingredients and equipment. Mise en place! See the notes for how to whip up the recipe as quick as possible.

Boil the Pasta 

  1. Bring about a gallon of water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. When the water boils, add a couple of large pinches of salt to the water, and add the pasta. 
  3. Cook the pasta until it is tender to the bite (al dente). Reserve a few cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta and drizzling it with olive oil.

Simmer the Sauce

  1. In a large, shallow sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon or pancetta in a small amount of olive oil until browned and beginning to crisp. Remove from the pan, reserving for garnish.
  2. Add the minced garlic, shallots and/or onions, red pepper flake, and a pinch of salt.  Sauté gently for two to three minutes until they soften and brown slightly.
  3. Add the tomato paste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the blended canned tomatoes and dried oregano, if using. Season with a pinch of salt, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat. 
  5. Add the vodka and gently simmer the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring fairly often, until it begins to thicken. This takes about five minutes.
  6. Stir in the heavy cream and bring the sauce back to a simmer. If you dare, you can add a splash more of your vodka here, for an especially boozy sauce. Use a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if your sauce is too thick to drizzle off of a spoon. 
  7. Finish the sauce by melting in the butter and sprinkling in your Italian herbs of choice. 
  8. Add the pasta to the pan, and toss to coat it completely in the sauce. If your sauté pan is too small to hold all the pasta, add the pasta back into the pot you cooked it in, and pour the sauce over it, tossing to coat the pasta as it heats up. 
  9. Serve immediately, and garnish with the crisped pancetta or bacon, grated cheese, and more fresh herbs, if you like.


On Pasta. You can use any pasta you like with a vodka sauce. Penne is the classic Italian choice, but any tubular pasta works great for sticking to the spicy marinara-style sauce. 

Dairy-free or Vegan. If you eat a dairy-free diet, omit the butter and substitute the heavy cream with your favorite alternative. Use olive oil to coat the pan for sautéing the garlic, shallots, or onions.

Low-Carb. If you strive for a lower-carb or ketogenic diet, you certainly don't want to partake in pasta. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a spicy vodka sauce over a roasted chicken thigh or mixed into your meatballs.

  • Author: Chef Christina
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


  • Serving Size: About 2 cups
  • Calories: 498
  • Sugar: 5.1 g
  • Sodium: 619.8 mg
  • Fat: 18.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 61.9 g
  • Protein: 13.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 36.6 mg

Keywords: gigi hadid pasta, spicy vodka pasta sauce, penne alla vodka, pasta alla vodka, cooking with alcohol