Chicken Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce – a deliciously rich and creamy tomato sauce folded together with penne pasta and topped off with either sauteed or grilled chicken breasts. This pasta recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner with the family, or when you want an impressive meal to serve for company.
This yummy pasta recipe is a restaurant-quality meal you can make at home. The sauce has a creamy and rich tomato base that hugs those penne noodles like they’re best friends.
And you know me – gotta get some protein in there, so I added chicken breasts. You can grill them or saute them in a pan on the stovetop. I’ve made this dish both ways and it’s always very hearty and tasty.
You might be wondering if there truly is vodka in this recipe.
And yes, just like the name suggests, there is.
What is alla vodka sauce?
Vodka sauce is an Italian-American sauce made from tomato sauce, vodka, Italian herbs, and heavy cream. And vodka is a key ingredient in penne alla vodka.
What does the vodka do in penne alla vodka?
Allow me to share what the vodka does to the sauce: normally combining tomatoes and cream causes problems, because the acidity of the tomatoes can make the cream separate. But the ethanol in the vodka emulsifies the sauce, keeping the tomato and cream from breaking apart.
The ethanol is thought to transform the flavors of the tomato by adding a bit of a sharp bite that helps balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the cream.
Just a little extra info for you from all the good people at Wikipedia.
Can you taste vodka in penne alla vodka?
If you’re wondering if you can taste the vodka in the sauce the answer is yes… and, well, no. You can’t actually taste the boozy flavor of the alcohol but it will add a pleasing flavor when sauteed with the tomato and cream.
I’m literally drooling as I write this. It’s sooo good!
If you are opposed to using alcohol when you’re cooking (or if you don't have any on hand), but still want to make this recipe, you can swap it out.
What can you substitute for vodka in penne alla vodka?
This article from The Manual explains vodka sauce nicely. They suggest a simple replacement of some fresh water and a squeeze of lemon will have a similar effect on the sauce. Not only is this an easy replacement, but it’s also cost-effective if you are looking to save money.
Who’s ready to eat!??? Both hands and feet up over hurrr!!
Here’s how it all comes together…
How To Make Chicken Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and your chicken breasts (seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder). Saute for 8 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees when temped with a digital food thermometer.
Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
You can also grill your chicken breasts for a bit of a smoky flavor. I do it both ways with this dish. You do you!
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it - the chicken bits will add a nice flavor). Add the onion and garlic then saute for 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
Stir the vodka into the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.
Now add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, sugar (if using), salt, and pepper.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, cook your penne noodles in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente. You can also use other varieties of pasta if you prefer… rigatoni is also a good option for this dish.
Turn down the heat on your sauce and slowly stir or whisk the cream into the tomato mixture, saute for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Fold the cooked pasta into the sauce.
Slice up your chicken breasts and serve them over the pasta with more grated Parmesan, fresh chopped parsley, and basil.
As you can tell this is one delicious and hearty meal!
Chicken Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce… sure to become one of your family’s favorite dinner recipes!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar (optional)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more for garnish)
- ⅓ cup parsley (more for garnish)
- 20 basil leaves chopped (more for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 16 ounces penne rigate or rigatoni pasta
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned chicken breasts. Saute for 8 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees when temped with a digital food thermometer. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it, the chicken bits and juices will add flavor). Add onion and garlic, then saute for 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
- Stir the vodka into the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, sugar (if using), salt and pepper.
- Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, cook penne noodles in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente.
- Turn down the heat on the tomtato sauce and slowly stir or whisk the heavy cream in, saute for 2 minutes then remove the pan from the heat.
- Fold the cooked pasta into the sauce.
- Slice the chicken breasts and serve them over the pasta with more grated Parmesan, fresh chopped parsley and basil.
Serving Size8 ounces
Amount Per Serving Calories 501Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 111mgSodium 383mgCarbohydrates 35gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 44g
This nutrition card uses an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. This estimate is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice!