Made with sweet Italian sausage, ground beef, a fragrant blend of herbs and a healthy pour of vodka and cream, this Penne alla Vodka gets a little kick of nutrition and color from the addition of fresh kale.
Is there anything more delicious than a bowl of saucy, cheesy pasta when the weather gets cool? Growing up, spaghetti was on weekly rotation at my house so anytime I tuck into a bowl of pasta it always reminds me of home. One of my favorite pasta dishes as of late is Penne alla Vodka. It’s the perfect quick pasta dish to make when you can’t decide between a hearty red sauce or a cream-based Alfredo sauce. The best part? It’s ready in under 60 minutes.
How to Make Homemade Vodka Sauce
One of the things I don’t think a lot of people realize is just how easy and affordable making pasta sauce from scratch is. Sure, it takes longer than opening a jar of sauce, but the flavors and satisfaction of making homemade pasta sauce are worth it.
Step 1: Brown & Sauté
This sauce begins with browning a blend of sweet Italian sausage and ground beef. I like to use a blend because I love how it creates a great balance of rich, beef flavor and fatty pork. Once browned, diced onion and minced garlic get added to meat and cooked until softened.
Step 2: Add Herbs, Vodka & Tomatoes
From here, a blend of dried and fresh herbs are added along with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a shot (or two) of vodka. Just let the vodka simmer for a few minutes and then tomato paste and crushed tomatoes are mixed into the pot.
Step 3: Simmer
Next, it’s time to let things cook low and slow. With the pot covered on low, let the sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes. This lets the flavors come together. You can let the sauce cook longer like this for a more robust flavor, but 20-30 minutes will also give you an intensely flavored sauce.
Step 4: Turn it Pink. Make it Healthy
After simmering, uncover and then stir in the heavy cream. I love seeing this rich red sauce turn pink from the cream. To finish, add the grated Parmesan and chopped fresh kale. Let cook for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted.
Step 5: Toss with Pasta & Serve
To serve, toss the sauce with al dente penne pasta and transfer to plates. I like to serve this dish with lots of crusty garlic bread. Trust me, you’re going to need a vessel to absorb every last drop of this flavor-packed sauce from your plate.
If you’re not into kale, you could also swap for spinach or uses zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta too. Omitting extra veggies altogether is also an option but with a toddler, I like to try and sneak in something green whenever I can!
If you try this Penne alla Vodka, give the recipe a rating and leave me a comment below with your thoughts. I also love to see what you create in your kitchen, so snap a picture and tag me on social media—it’s @frydaeblog and #frydaeblog absolutely everywhere.
Looking for other great, comforting pasta dishes? Try this Lemony Goat Cheese Spaghetti with Garlic Herb Pangrattato next.
Penne alla Vodka
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups fresh kale , chopped
- 1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
- Cook penne pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.In a large stockpot, over medium heat, combine the ground beef and Italian sausage. Cook until the meat is brown and no pink remains. Then, add the diced onions and minced garlic. Stir and cook until onions have softened and the garlic is fragrant—about 5 minutes.Next, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme and fennel seeds. Stir to combine and then add the balsamic vinegar and vodka. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3-5 minutes until the vodka is reduced by half.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and parsley. Stir until well incorporated, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and let the sauce cook for 20-30 minutes.When the time has elapsed, uncover and then pour the heavy cream into the sauce. Stir and then add the parmesan cheese and chopped kale. Carefully fold the kale into the sauce and let cook for 5 minutes until wilted. Add the cooked penne to the sauce and gently stir to coat all of the pasta evenly.To serve, spoon the warm pasta onto plates, garnish with additional grated parmesan and serve with warm crusty bread. Enjoy.