recipe ideas

[Kitchen 143] Quick and easy penne ala vodka

Michelle Aventajado
[Kitchen 143] Quick and easy penne ala vodka

Michelle Aventajado

Try out this dish that's easy to reheat, keeps well in the fridge, and is perfect for lunch, dinner, or even merienda!

Even if the origins of penne ala vodka have long been disputed, this quick and easy Italian pasta dish has always been a #TeamGellibean favorite.

Using simple ingredients that are fresh elevates this creamy tomato-based pink-sauced pasta dish to something extra special. I usually use whole tomatoes in a can (that come from Italy) but if I have the time, using fresh tomatoes that are blanched and peeled are even better.  

Viands that go really well with this pasta include eggplant parmigiana, chicken cutlets, or sausage and peppers. These are often served family style in our home, and go hand in hand with a fresh green salad, and crispy buttery garlic bread.

In fact, this menu is what we will be serving for Gellibean’s 10th Birthday Dinner! By making a casserole of sausage and peppers, and preparing my salad ahead of time, all I have to do is wait for my sister to come by for dinner and throw the pasta in the salted water to get dinner on the table in a timely fashion.

I first learned how to make this dish when I was still in college. I was visiting my friends in London, and they asked if I could make pasta for dinner while we were hanging out in their flat. I was so pleased with myself that I was able to remember how to make the dish from when an Italian boy made it for me weeks prior.

Michelle Aventajado


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 diced small red onions 
  • 350 grams diced prosciutto 
  • 2 cans, 800 grams whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup of vodka
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • 400 milliliters of cooking cream
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • Basil for garnish
  • 500 grams penne pasta


  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, sauté diced onions in extra virgin olive oil.
  • Add diced prosciutto and reduce heat. Make sure not to burn the mixture.
  • After 5 to 6 minutes or when the prosciutto has reduced just a bit, add the whole tomatoes.
  • Throw in fresh basil and add your vodka. (Be careful if you are using an open flame stovetop.)
  • Add salt and paper.
  • Simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to be sure the prosciutto doesn’t stick to the bottom. 
  • Boil your pasta in salted water, toss in olive oil, and set aside.
  • Just before serving, add cream and grated parmesan cheese to the tomatoes, stir to incorporate well. 
  • Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, and top penne with sauce and garnish with more grated parmesan and some fresh basil.
  • Serve immediately.
Michelle Aventajado


  • Swap out prosciutto for smoked bacon.
  • Add a splash of brandy when adding vodka for another layer of flavor.
  • Crushed tomatoes in a can works just as well as whole tomatoes. 

Once I mastered this dish, it quickly became the dish my family would ask me to bring to our family pot-lucks. It can be reheated, and if you make a big batch, it can keep in the fridge for about a week. It’s delicious for lunch, dinner, and if you enjoy merienda, it’s great for that too! –

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Michelle Aventajado

Michelle Aventajado is a Filipina American striving for an ever-elusive balance in everything she does. Advocating for individuals with IDD through Best Buddies Philippines, sharing her parenting journey with her daughter's extra chromosome through Momma 'N Manila, and churning out love of home and hearth through Kitchen 143 are just some of the things that fuel her passion and serve her God-given purpose.