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Penne with Vodka Sauce from LemonyThyme.com

Do you ever get stuck in a pasta rut? Or better yet a ‘what’s for dinner’ rut?  We have become such fans of Spaghetti & Meatballs that we have it almost weekly.  No complaints, but I was ready for a change.  Enter cream and vodka.  Voila Penne with Vodka Sauce {penne alla vodka}.

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This past summer weather was ideal for growing tomatoes and as a bonus the season spanned several months.  Each week the Farmers Market was lined with table after table of this gorgeous fruit.  I’ve shared before that I have a huge soft spot for local farmers and buy something from each of them, every week.  Which is precisely how we have ended up with a freezer full of Homemade Marinara Sauce.

This is a good time to talk about Mother Sauces.  I learned years ago that there are five classic Mother Sauces from which most all secondary sauces are derived.  At that pre-Lemony Thyme period I was certain I would never become a foodie geek….but I listened.  I’ve come to understand that there is something to be said for understanding Mother Sauces.  Here’s an article I found helpful and informative on this topic.

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While Penne with Vodka Sauce has a wonderful rich flavor, one serving comes in under 400 calories.  Making this 15-minute dish the perfect weeknight meal.

Vodka Sauce, might be one of the simplest variations of Mother Sauce #5 ~ Tomato Sauce, coming together in mere minutes.  Which is precisely why Penne with Vodka Sauce is being added to our easy weeknight meal rotation.

Begin with your favorite marinara sauce, add vodka and simmer 5-7 minutes (cooking off the alcohol).  The vodka gives the sauce a nice crisp flavor, a bit hard to explain but really nice.  Stir in heavy cream and a pinch of red pepper flakes, toss with cooked penne pasta, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.  Such a rich, yet fresh flavored dish.

Recipe Note:  We’ve found that when making Healthy Choices it’s best to only prepare the number of portions = to the number of people you’re serving.  May seem like common sense but we’ve been guilty in the past of cooking the entire box of pasta vs. weighing out two ounce portions.  Serve Penne with Vodka Sauce with a tossed salad and you’ll find one portion is plenty.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Libby with Lemony Thyme
While Penne with Vodka Sauce has a wonderful rich flavor, one serving comes in under 400 calories. Making this 15-minute dish the perfect weeknight meal.
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 8


  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 4 cups Marinara Sauce see recipe link in post
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil


  • Cook penne according to package instructions.
  • Heat marinara sauce over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in vodka. Return to a low simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and red pepper flakes and heat through.
  • To serve, toss penne in vodka sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.