A delicious creamy sauce, tender chicken, penne pasta, and loads of flavour make Chicken Penne Alla Vodka an absolute favourite in our house. Adding a touch of vodka to a tomato-based cream sauce changes the taste of this simple dish which is easy enough to make on any weeknight.
Everyone has busy nights when you’re in a rush to get home from work, to feed the kids, and then get out the door again to get to practice, lessons, or gatherings. You don’t have to sacrifice flavour or a quality meal on nights like this. Making Chicken Penne Alla Vodka is quick and easy, and I’ve got some tips for you to make it even easier.
The best part about this dish is how hearty and delicious it is. It’s a rustic dish, but the cream sauce is heavenly. Enhanced with a bit of vodka, the sauce is rich, indulgent, and perfect with pasta, chicken, and herbs.
You also don’t need special equipment or skills to make this recipe. It’s quick, easy, and tasty!
what makes this recipe great
- It’s simple. You don’t need to be a chef to make this easy pasta recipe.
- You can make much of this recipe ahead of time, making dinner even more manageable.
- It’s creamy, chunky, and loaded with flavour – everything a pasta recipe should be!
- It uses inexpensive and familiar ingredients.
Can Kids Eat Chicken Penne Alla Vodka?
If you’re worried about the alcohol content of this chicken pasta recipe, never fear! First, there’s very little vodka in the recipe, and when you divide it by the number of servings, it’s hardly any at all.
Second, the alcohol content cooks out of the vodka reasonably quickly. When the sauce reduces, the alcohol cooks off, just leaving the flavour behind. So, if you’re wondering if you can get drunk on this penne alla vodka with chicken recipe, the answer is no!
What Does The Vodka Do In Chicken Penne Alla Vodka?
Not only does the vodka add a sharp note that balances the creaminess and sweetness from the tomatoes, and it helps the sauce stay rich and creamy. Acidic tomatoes and cream don’t always play nicely together, and the sauce can often break. The alcohol molecules help bind the fat and acids into a cohesive creamy sauce.
Vodka is essential to this sauce, but using too much is as ineffective as using too little. For this recipe, ½ cup of vodka is just perfect.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Penne pasta – You’ll need about 22 ounces of dry penne (600 g) or use your favourite kind of pasta. Whole wheat or brown rice pasta will also work. Cook the pasta according to package directions and set aside.
Olive oil – Use what you have on hand but olive oil is typically used in Italian dishes.
Onion – Chopped small but adds loads of flavour. I prefer white onions as opposed to the sweeter varieties.
Garlic – Fresh garlic. Because what Italian dish outside of dessert doesn’t use garlic. Am I right?
Crushed tomatoes – A large can or if you are lucky enough grab a jar of your Nonna’s or Mom’s that are in the cantina! You know the kind where the “tomatoes” get made or crushed each September and have been chilling with a big ole’ sprig of fresh basil in them!
Herbs – Bay leaves, dried oregano, dried parsley, fresh basil. All the flavours used in typical Italian fare!
Vodka – Use whatever is on hand. But not the flavoured kind. You can keep the Green Apple Vodka for a drink while cooking.
Heavy cream – Creates the creaminess and richness in this vodka sauce.
Chicken breast – Cooked, boneless and skinless chicken breasts OR sliced rotisserie chicken.
How To Make Chicken Alla Vodka with Penne
Add some oil to a skillet, add the onions, and cook them for a few minutes. Add the garlic and keep cooking until the onions are translucent. Then, add the dried herbs and mix well.
Next, add the canned crushed tomatoes and bay leaves. The bay leaves add a subtle peppery flavour to the sauce and shouldn’t be left out. But if you are lucky to grab some of your Nonna’s tomatoes she likely stores them with basil in the jar. If this is the case you can leave the basil out of the sauce in this step and also remove the basil from the jar or sauce before pouring it into the pan.
The basil that has been stored in the homemade jarred crushed tomatoes gets limp and has had its day once the jar is opened so just toss it. The flavour has already been shared with the tomatoes inside the jar.
Once you have mixed the with the onions and herb mixture, turn the heat up to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaves and discard them. You may need to hunt for them a bit but you don’t want them in the finished sauce.
Next, add the fresh chopped basil along with the heavy cream and vodka. Mix well until the cream is evenly mixed into the tomatoes sauce.
Simmer another 2 minutes over medium heat.
Add the cooked chicken (or rotisserie chicken) and cooked pasta and mix well. Heat through, then serve topped with some Parmesan cheese.
Tips For Making This Pasta Recipe Ahead of Time
- Precook the pasta and keep it in a zipper-top bag or airtight container in the fridge to cut down on the prep time.
- Cook the chicken ahead of time. Making chicken for dinner? Make extra, and save a few chicken breasts for this recipe.
- Use rotisserie chicken to make rotisserie chicken alla vodka.
What to Serve with Chicken Alla Vodka with Pasta
This chicken and vodka sauce is a hearty, easy meal, so don’t overcomplicate it with fancy side dishes! A leafy salad and garlic bread will round out the meal nicely. If you want to get a bit fancier, this Chopped Cucumber Caprese Salad is stunning with this easy chicken pasta recipe.
How to Store This Penna Alla Vodka with Chicken Recipe
Cooled leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you want to store the vodka pasta recipe longer than that, freeze it! Freeze portions in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months.
When reheating your leftover vodka sauce pasta with chicken, you may need to add a touch more cream or milk to get it nice and creamy again.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does Chicken Penne with Vodka Sauce taste like?
When you add cream to a tomato sauce, it both tempers the flavour of the tomatoes and enhances it. The cream adds a level of sweetness to the sauce, letting the tomato flavour shine through. The vodka adds a bit of a sharp bite to the sauce that balances the rich, creamy sweetness, making this sauce one of my all-time favourites.
What type of wine goes best with vodka sauce?
A light and lively chianti or robust and full-bodied sauvignon blanc pair fabulously with this penne vodka chicken recipe and enhance the vodka notes without overpowering the delicate sauce.
Is pasta vodka sauce spicy?
No. This easy pasta recipe isn’t spicy. If you like it spicy, feel free to sprinkle in some crushed red peppers or add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
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The Best Chicken Penne Alla Vodka
- 22 oz dry penne pasta cooked according to package directions.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh basil; finely chopped
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 cups cooked chicken breast; sliced or cubed
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and let cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook until onions are translucent. Add in the dried herbs and mix for 1 or minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaves, turning heat to medium. Let simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Remove bay leaves and add in fresh basil. Stir and let simmer for 2 more minutes.
- Add the vodka and cream and stir to combine. Let simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cooked penne and mix to combine. Serve hot topped with some optional shredded parmesan cheese.
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For the step-by-step version of this recipe, check out the How to Make Chicken Penne Alla Vodka Story.