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Makeover Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

Makeover Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce is still creamy, rich and restaurant-quality special, but it now has less than half the original recipe’s fat and cholesterol. Even our pros had a hard time telling them apart. —Debra Torres, Clarion, Pennsylvania
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. Cook: 40 min.
  • Makes
    8 servings


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (one 28 ounces, one 14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 package (12 ounces) whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  • In a large saucepan, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in tomatoes and vodka. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, cook penne according to package directions.
  • Stir the pesto, salt and pepper flakes into tomato mixture. In a small bowl, combine flour and cream until smooth; stir into pan. Add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drain penne; serve with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.
Nutrition Facts
1 each: 324 calories, 11g fat (5g saturated fat), 27mg cholesterol, 379mg sodium, 44g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 7g fiber), 12g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 vegetable, 2 fat.

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  • PrplMonky5
    Oct 4, 2016

    While we liked this, we had just a few minor issues with it. Mine came out pretty runny in the end. I tried to let it continue to boil for a while (well past the 2 minutes), but it never seemed to thicken up. I added in some water cornstarch to see if that would help and it did thicken a bit. Maybe I was supposed to drain the tomatoes? It didn't say to, so I threw the whole can in, juice and all. I also expected to get a hint of the vodka, but I didn't. It was a good flavor, just not what I was expecting. I made everything as written except adding the cornstarch and using ziti instead of penne. We will make this again, but I might try to tweak it a bit more.

  • kimberlyannbowman
    Mar 8, 2015

    Definitely putting this one in my rotation!!

  • MissyMunches
    Sep 1, 2014

    Excellent recipe!!! I added thinly sliced sweet Italian sausage (not to thin, skin removed) and sliced fresh mushrooms! I added both when I began to sauteed the onions. I omitted the pesto and used basil seasoning and threw in a couple of bay leaves into the sauce. I removed the bay leaves prior to adding the heavy cream mixture and milk. I will definitely make this again! =)

  • RHiland09
    May 31, 2014

    One of the best pasta dishes I've ever tasted ---

  • lduckworth
    Jan 17, 2013

    This was a big hit at our home - I will make this again.

  • agnes24
    Nov 7, 2011

    Hubby really liked it. I thought it was a little bland but I didn't have any pesto so that could be why. I substituted 14.5 oz of spaghetti sauce for one of the cans of tomatoes because I needed to use it up and my family doesn't like tomato chunks anyway. Also, I substituted 2% milk because we never have whole milk. It was still good but next time I'll make sure I add pesto. Oh and one large onion seemed way too much!

  • benenati
    Feb 14, 2011

    Great recipe. I purchase a store bought oven roasted chicken and cut pieces of the flavorful chicken up and add it to the sauce. I also throw in some frozen peas right before serving. A quick and delicious meal that all my boys (5 of them ) thoroughly enjoy. Don't forget the garlic bread for scooping up the sauce!!!

  • kruzcats
    Oct 26, 2010

    This recipe was wonderful. I used regular penne pasta instead of the wheat, and added a little more pepper flakes. I will definitely make this again and again!! Super Yum!

  • mjlouk
    Sep 19, 2010

    The whole family liked this one! Even my super picky 4 year old ate it - after some coaxing.

  • coffman
    Aug 10, 2010

    This is the first time I have had Vodka Cream Sauce and it was excellent and very flavorful. I will definitely be making this again.