penne sausage vodka sauce
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Sausage and Penne with Vodka Sauce

Penne with Vodka Sauce is a pretty classic Italian-American pasta recipe.  It makes for a great weeknight, family-style meal and is recognizable to most people by its distinctive sauce color. 

Vodka sauce really makes sense from a culinary stance.  Alcohol helps to bring out flavors, and  vodka is pretty high in alcohol itself with almost no flavor.  This combines to really highlight natural flavors in the tomato sauce without adding a lot of competing flavor.  In general, I really like cooking with alcohol; there are so many kinds, flavors, and uses.  Unfortunately for vodka, not having any flavor of its own limits it to more specific uses like this one (tempura batter being another common use believe it or not).

I decided to mix my version of the recipe up a bit.  I wanted some protein, so I went with a chicken sausage.  Its easy to cook if you buy it pre-cooked (hello easy weeknight meal) and has a lot of flavor.  I also added basil and sun-dried tomato to really enhance the flavor and provide depth.  If you really want to make this easy, you can just use jarred tomato sauce and save a lot of time.  If you leave out the meat, this quickly become vegetarian (although not vegan, heavy cream and all).

Sausage and Penne a la Vodka

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 People


  • 14 oz Canned Tomato Sauce/Puree
  • 1 lb Penne Ridged kind
  • 4 Precooked Chicken Sausages Cut thinly on a diagonal
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion Finely diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves Minced
  • 6 Jarred Sun-dried Tomatoes Diced
  • 1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
  • 1/2 Tsp Oregano
  • 5-6 Large Basil Leaves Chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Vodka
  • 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Cook the pasta per package instructions in a large stock pot of boiling water.
  • Heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil in a large sauté over medium-high heat. Add the Chicken Sausage and cook until slightly browned about 3 minutes. Remove the sausage and set aside.
  • Add more oil if needed, reduce heat to medium. Cook to onion until slightly translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, spices, and herbs, cook for an additional minute. Add the tomato sauce then the vodka, stir together and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Add the cream for the last two minutes.  Add a dash of balsamic at the very end for a hint of sweetness.
  • Add the pasta and sausage back in and toss together. Top with ripped basil leaves and cheese.

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