Ah, pasta, how I love thee! Sometimes, nothing else will do; you just need a plate of yummy pasta.
Even better? Having a rich and satisfying sauce on that pasta. That’s where this recipe comes in: penne pasta, a rich vodka sauce, with chicken to give this one-dish meal a protein boost.
You wouldn’t think a little vodka would make much difference, but it does. Simple pureed tomatoes are transformed with the addition of heavy cream and vodka.
It’s a must try!
Why I love this Chicken Penne alla Vodka
Get ready for delicious! This chicken penne alla vodka feels so indulgent, with its rich flavors and textures. It’s the kind of taste you think would require simmering all day, but its ready in less than 45 minutes.
The ingredients are easy, I almost always have them all on hand. Yes, including vodka. I consider it part of my Scandinavian heritage. 😁
How to make this chicken and penne with vodka sauce
To prep. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. I like to cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise first, then across to make about ½-inch sized pieces.
Get a large pot of salted water ready to boil. You can either start heating the water right away or wait until the sauce is simmering.
In a very large skillet, heat the oil and add minced shallots. Cook a few minutes until they are beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds.
Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Heat and stir until the paste is fully incorporated. Now, add in the vodka, plus salt and crushed red pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to fully develop the flavors. The sauce will thicken slightly.
Stir in the cream and a little more salt and pepper, if needed.
Add the chicken and heat the sauce until the chicken is cooked through. This can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken pieces.
Turn the heat to low to keep warm while the pasta cooks.
Cook pasta according to the package instructions for “al dente”. When done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and then drain the pasta.
Add the pasta to the skillet with sauce and toss to coat well. Then add about ½ cup of pasta water, or more as needed to achieve a smooth consistency.
Add chopped fresh basil and toss, then serve.
Vodka is added to the sauce at the beginning of the cooking time, and cooking will reduce the alcohol content significantly. 15 minutes of simmering reduces alcohol by 60%, and the longer you simmer the more it will reduce. Since you’re only starting with ⅓ cup of vodka in a very large pan of sauce, I think it’s fair to say that the alcohol content is negligible.
If you haven’t done this before, start now. Always add a little pasta water to your sauce. The water is salty and a little bit starchy from cooking the pasta. Adding this to your sauce adds flavor and helps the sauce adhere to the pasta.
Did your mom serve them separately? Mine too. But it’s much better to mix pasta with sauce right away, while they are both hot. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce while it starts to cool down, and every piece of pasta is guaranteed to be coated with sauce.
Here’s a rule I live by, which I heard a long time ago: always have the sauce waiting for the pasta. It’s better to have the sauce ready and simmering, so that you can add the hot pasta to the pan right away, as soon as it is drained.
More Recipes to Love
- Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken
- Green Pasta Sauce
- Butternut Squash Spaghetti Bake
- Ricotta Meatballs
- Caprese Chicken
Chicken & Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil cooking
- 4 small shallots minced (about ⅓-1/2 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 3 ounces tomato paste ½ a can
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup vodka unflavored
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 ¼ pounds chicken breasts boneless skinless
- 16 ounces pasta penne or similar
- ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves chopped
- To prep: place a large pot of salted water over medium-high heat. Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise first, then crosswise against the grain to make ½ -inch thick pieces.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and add the shallots. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes for very finely minced shallots.
- Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is evenly incorporated.
- Stir in the crushed red pepper, vodka, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes to develop the flavors and slightly thicken the sauce.
- Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper if needed.
- Add the chicken and heat the sauce until the chicken is just cooked through. This will take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, depending upon how big your pieces of chicken are.
- Turn the heat to low and keep the sauce warm while the pasta cooks.
- Cook pasta to “al dente”, according to the package directions. When done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce and toss well. Add in a little pasta water as needed to reach a smooth consistency. (I typically add about a half cup)
- Stir in the fresh basil and serve immediately.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.