Fresh Tomato Basil Penne alla Vodka is rich, creamy, and so flavorful! The vodka sauce is made with olive oil, a bounty of fresh cherry tomatoes, plenty of garlic, and just a touch of crushed red pepper flakes – plus vodka, cream, and tons of fresh basil! This restaurant quality penne alla vodka recipe is sure to become a family favorite!
Penne with Fresh Tomato Vodka Sauce
There are few things I love more than pasta. It’s definitely my favorite food, and I’ll happily consume it in all shapes, sizes, and sauces!!!
But when it comes to vodka sauce… I never really got the hype. I always found it way too creamy (hello, stomach ache), kind of bland (such a sin), and if I’m being completely honest, boring (pasta should never be boring)!
Vodka really has zero flavor, so it’s not too surprising it’s kind of a snooze fest. Especially since most recipes are literally a few cloves of garlic crushed tomatoes, and vodka. Which should be a crime for how much saturated fat is in it! If I’m splurging on a cream sauce, it better taste like a splurge lol.
That being said, the vodka pasta at Carbone is heaven on earth and I would happily eat that as my last meal. But that’s the ONLY vodka sauce I’ve ever loved.
Up until today, that is! Because I made it my mission to come up with a not-too-rich, extremely quick, and super flavorful version that I could enjoy and of course, share with you!
And this my friends, is it!!! Made with 4 pints of cherry tomatoes, TONS of garlic and basil, and just enough vodka and heavy cream, this is one of the most delicious tomato sauces you’ll ever taste!
Let’s talk tomatoes!!!
The better your tomatoes, the better this recipe will be! Which is why, if possible, I suggest using cherry tomatoes from your local farmers market. But at the very least, make sure they’re juicy and fresh! If your tomatoes are very large, I suggest slicing them in half. This will help them cook quickly and release more of their yummy juices!
How to Cook Al Dente Pasta
You’re going to want to cook your pasta al dente, which means you should cook it just until it’s soft enough to eat, but it still has a somewhat firm texture. I use DeLallo brand penne pasta and it’s ready in exactly 8 minutes.
Here’s what I do: bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt, then add the pasta into the pasta water and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Sample a noodle, and if it’s tender but still firm to bite, it’s ready to go! But instead of straining it, I encourage you to use a slotted spoon to transfer the penne directly into the vodka sauce. This will allow some of that salty delicious pasta water to incorporate with the sauce, which is always a good thing in my book!
Have a gas stove? Read this!!!
If you own a gas stove, please take your pan off of the flame when adding the vodka. Or be super careful, because vodka is alcohol, which is extremely flammable! So I suggest turning the flame off, removing the pan from the stovetop, and then add the vodka in. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
P.S. I totally do not take my own advice and add it right on top of the stove, but I cook for a living and have been trained in working with flames etc! Please just be careful and use your best judgement!!!
Making the sauce and cooking the pasta should take less than 25 minutes! And no need to bust out your food processor to pulse the tomatoes like a lot of vodka sauce recipes ask you to! Instead we embrace the chunk fresh sauce!
Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. extra basil, and a bottle of wine, and enjoy!!!
More Pasta Recipes:
- Easy Tomato and Spinach Pasta
- Penne a la Vodka (a more traditional but still flavorful option for you!)
- Best Ever Baked Ziti Recipe
- The Best Homemade Lasagna Recipe
- Crazy Good Classic Stuffed Shells
- Penne Arrabbiata
Fresh Tomato Basil Penne alla Vodka
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less if you don't like spice)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 pints cherry tomatoes (any large cherry tomatoes should be cut in half)
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) vodka (use 2/3 cup for a more vodka dominant sauce)
- 3/4 cup (170 grams) heavy cream
- 1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
- Freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)
- Place a large pot of water over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add in a dash of salt, then add in the pasta and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until al dente. Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain the penne and place into a bowl until needed.
- In the meantime, heat oil in a 12" skillet or large saucepan over medium-heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Then stir in the salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and sugar, and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add in the tomatoes and stir to coat. Cook the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes burst and release their juices to form a sauce, about 10 t0 12 minutes. If any tomatoes don't burst, lightly press on the with a spoon to help them along.
- Remove pan from heat, and stir in the vodka. Then stir in the heavy cream. Return to stovetop and stir in the basil.
- Toss pasta with with tomato sauce and let simmer for 2 minutes. Then remove from heat and serve warm, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.