Elevate dinner with this mouth-watering penne alla vodka recipe. Made with penne pasta, sliced chicken breasts, this pasta dish is topped off with a homemade vodka sauce and 2 different kinds of cheese! It’s as easy as spaghetti but looks and tastes like a chef-made meal.
Easy Penne Alla Vodka Recipe
Did you know that pasta dinners can actually be made to be healthy? I’m stoked!
While I’ve been known to reach for a jar of pasta sauce or two, I’ve found that making your own homemade pasta sauces is just as easy as opening the can and heating it up, but better for you. Not only does it taste better, but you can actually control the quality and quantity of ingredients that are being added.
I start doing that with my vegan romesco sauce and I figured- why not try doing the same with vodka sauce?
Guess what? This vodka sauce is incredible! It’s so good, you’ll be licking the spatula and counting down the minutes until it is done. Even if you haven’t really liked vodka sauce before, you are going to like it now after trying this one.
Get ready to indulge in decadence without the guilt. You are going to adore this pasta recipe!
Ingredients In Penne Pasta With Vodka Sauce
I used all whole ingredients in this scrumptious pasta sauce – it makes all the difference. Here’s what I used, along with how much you’ll need.
- Penne Pasta: You can use your favorite type of pasta. I used an entire pound of pasta in this recipe. Use chickpea or quinoa pasta for a gluten-free dish!
- Avocado Oil: This is what you’ll use to brown the chicken and veggies. You only need about 2 tablespoons.
- Chicken Breasts: Cut them into bite-sized pieces before you cook them; that way, they will cook faster. You’ll need about 1.5 pounds of chicken breasts.
- Garlic and Onion: This is what I call aromatics because they smell so amazing as they cook. Always use fresh, whole onion and garlic that you cut up before you cook it. I used an entire yellow onion and 4 cloves of garlic.
- Tomatoes: You’ll need an entire 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Don’t drain it – you’ll use the entire can, sauce and all.
- Vodka: Yes, you’ll use real vodka in this sauce! You need about 2/3 cups. Make sure it is plain (unflavored) vodka.
- Italian Seasoning: I used 2 teaspoons, but you can use a little more if you want.
- Salt and Pepper: You don’t need much. I just used a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. That’s about a small dash.
- Neufchâtel Cream Cheese: You can also use regular cream cheese, but use half a block of either one.
- Parmesan Cheese: For the best flavor, grate the parmesan cheese at home. You’ll need about 1/3 cup.
Kitchen Tools Required For This Pasta Dish
If you have ever made a homemade pasta sauce, then you probably already have all the tools you need. Here is what I used:
- Large Pot
- Large Pan or Dutch Oven
- Cutting Board
For measuring, you will need tablespoon, liquid measuring cup (2/3 cup), 1/3 cup, teaspoon, and half a teaspoon.
How To Make Healthy Penne Alla Vodka Chicken Pasta
This is such a simple recipe! All of the steps and ingredients are in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
The first step is to cook the pasta. Follow the directions on the box and then put it aside.
Next, heat the avocado oil in your Dutch oven. Do this over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Then, add chopped chicken. Let it cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vodka, and seasonings. Give it a nice stir and let it simmer over medium-heat for 5 minutes.
Next, add in cream cheese and parmesan cheese, and use a whisk to break it up. Let simmer another five minutes.
Finally, mix in pasta until completely coated. Enjoy!
Below are some common penne alla vodka questions. Don’t see the answer you’re looking for? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post!
How do I keep my pasta from sticking together?
Pasta that boils in one large clump is never any good – I know the pain! Don’t fall for the “add oil to the water” hack. The best way to prevent your pasta from sticking together is to use a large enough pan.
If you are boiling an entire pound of pasta (like in my recipe), I suggest using about 4 quarts of water.
Another thing that will prevent your pasta from sticking together is to stir the pasta as soon as you add it to the water, and a few times while it cooks. This will agitate the water and prevent the starch from concentrating in one spot.
What can I use instead of vodka?
You don’t have to use vodka. A fantastic vodka replacement for this sauce is a few tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. That will add the tart taste that vodka would have.
What is the safe cooking temperature of chicken?
I always use an instant read food thermometer when I cook meat. The safe cooking temperature of chicken is 160 degrees F.
Wondering if you can use different ingredients in this recipe? There are a few ways you can.
Don’t worry too much about what type of onion to use. I used yellow onion, but white or even red onions will taste amazing in this sauce. Red onions have the strongest flavor, so maybe only use it if that is all you have.
I used chicken breasts because it is easy to cup up and cook. You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs as a replacement, or just leave the meat out entirely.
If you want to make your own Italian seasoning, feel free. The herbs that are usually in Italian seasoning are parsley, oregano, basil, and thyme.
This penne alla vodka meal saves so well. You might even think it tastes better the next day, after all the flavors soak into the noodles.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 5 days. The texture will solidify a bit in the refrigerator. That’s ok! It will melt and soften as soon as you heat it back up.
If you liked this recipe, you’ll want to try these!
Here are some more of my favorite pasta dishes. Enjoy!
- Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
- One-Pot Chicken Parmesan Pasta
- Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Salad
- Healthy Taco Pasta
Recipe by Erin Morrissey and Photography by Moriah Sawtelle
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- 1.5 lb chicken breasts, diced into small cubes
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2/3 cup vodka
- 2 tsp italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 block Neufchâtel cream cheese (or regular) – room temperature.
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and set aside.
- In a large pan or dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp avocado oil over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Then add chopped chicken. Let cook four minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add in tomatoes, vodka, and seasonings. Stir and let simmer over medium for 5 minutes.
- Stir in cream cheese and parmesan cheese, and use a whisk to break it up. Let simmer another five minutes.
- Stir in pasta until completely coated. Enjoy!
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