Penne alla Vodka



Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

25 minutes


Calories 640, Carbs 94 grams, Fat 18 grams, Protein 23 grams



  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta (or whole wheat rigatoni)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • fresh basil leaves (for serving)
  • kosher salt, to taste



  1. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Once at a boil, add a small handful of kosher salt. Add your pasta and cook until it is 90% done (it will finish cooking in the sauce).
  2. Place a straight sided saute pan, or a small dutch oven on your stovetop over medium high heat. You’ll need a large enough sized pan to be able to mix the entire amount of cooked pasta into the sauce inside it. Put the olive oil into the pan and, once it is hot and shimmering, add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms have caramelized. Stir and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and chili flakes, stirring until the paste has fully incorporated. Continue stirring the mixture and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan until the paste has become a very dark red color and smells intensely of tomato, at least 5 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s starting to brown or stick a little to the bottom of the pan; as long as it’s not burning, keep going! This is where we are building a really deep tomato flavor.
  4. Add in the balsamic vinegar and vodka to loosen the browned tomato from the bottom of the pan, scraping as soon as it’s added. Once the bottom of the pan is mostly clean, stir the mixture to fully incorporate everything and reduce the heat to low so the sauce is barely simmering.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the cream cheese until it’s emulsified and smooth. Pour in ¼ cup of boiling water from your pasta pot, again whisking constantly until you have a smooth sauce.
  6. Once your pasta is 90% cooked, reserve another cup of the pasta water in a heatproof bowl or measuring cup, and drain your pasta. Add the drained pasta to your vodka sauce.
  7. Mix the pasta into the sauce, along with ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. As you’re stirring, slowly add in the grated parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and you have a shiny sauce that coats and sticks to each piece of pasta. Once the pasta has finished cooking in the sauce, adjust the consistency as needed with more pasta water. Add salt to taste.
  8. Scoop the pasta into four serving bowls and drizzle with a bit more olive oil, if desired. Top the pasta with hand torn basil.