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Chicken and Vodka Pasta

Chicken and Vodka Pasta is our new family favorite and I’m sure it will be yours too!

It’s perfectly luscious, creamy, and incredibly flavorful. You’ll be forever amazed by how such a simple sauce can be so tasty!

Chicken and Vodka Pasta in a shallow bowl with another bowl in the background.
Tasty goodness that the whole family will love!

I have been cooking traditional Italian pasta dishes like Pasta al Forno, Spaghetti alla Nerano, and Sausage Broccolini Pasta all my life. Vodka sauce is a recent addition to the Italian menu becoming popular in Italy in the 1980s and 1990s. So while Chicken and Vodka Pasta isn’t an old Italian recipe, it is a very tasty and comforting dish. 

Chicken Vodka Pasta comes together in just 30 minutes! I love that this dish is simple enough to enjoy on busy weekends and yet flavorsome enough to enjoy on special celebrations. Whatever the occasion, you can rely on this dish being simple, delicious, and satisfying!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Flavorful – this beautifully rich and creamy Chicken Vodka Pasta is a feast for your taste buds. I’m sure you’ll be looking for seconds!
  • Family favorite – yes, you read that correctly! Even though the sauce contains vodka, the alcohol is completely cooked off and leaves behind a deliciously comforting pasta sauce. 
  • Fast – In just 30 minutes you can have a plate of my richly satisfying Chicken and Vodka Pasta. It’s perfect for busy weeknights or those days when you don’t feel like cooking. 
  • Tips and hints – As an Italian cook, I’ve included all the tips and hints to help you make this pasta dish perfectly! 

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

Ingredients for this recipe viewed from above.
  • Penne pasta – I prefer any bronze cut or bronze die pasta because it is more porous and has a slightly rough texture. This means the sauce sticks to the pasta better!
  • Chicken breast – boneless and skinless chicken breasts are the best option for this Chicken and Vodka Pasta. 
  • Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil if you have it. Otherwise, regular olive oil is a good substitute. 
  • Onion – a white or brown onion is best for this pasta recipe. 
  • Red pepper flakes – for a delicious but subtle spicy flavor in the sauce. 
  • Canned whole tomatoes—avoid buying diced or crushed tomatoes, as they are often more watery and an inferior option.
  • Cream – cooking cream, heavy cream, or double cream is used to make the vodka sauce. 
  • Vodka – just use your preferred vodka 
  • Parsley – fresh parsley is key in this recipe. Don’t use dried parsley. It has no flavor at all.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese – also known as Parmesan cheese for serving.

Instructions

Before you begin, peel and finely chop the onion. Then puree the whole tomatoes in a food processor, pass them through a fine mesh sieve, or crush them with a fork and set aside. Slice the chicken into strips and set aside. 

Small strips of chicken frying in a pan.

Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Add the chicken and fry until browned. Remove and set aside.

Adding red pepper flakes to fried onion in a pan.

Add the onion to the pan and saute gently until golden. Stir in the red pepper flakes.

Adding tomato puree to browned onions in a pan.

Add the tomato puree, salt, and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Drizzling cream into tomato sauce.

Stir in the cream.

Cooked chicken strips on creamy sauce and small glass of vodka being added.

Add the browned chicken and vodka. Stir and allow to simmer for a minute or two.

Cooked penne pasta being added to creamy tomato sauce.

Stir cooked penne pasta into the chicken vodka sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to serve.

Substitutions

  • Vodka – you can substitute the vodka with another spirit of your choice. I like gin, vermouth, or sherry. For a non-alcoholic option, omit the vodka from the recipe and add a little pasta cooking water if the sauce becomes too thick. 
  • Pasta – if you don’t have penne pasta try another shape that carries this rich chicken vodka sauce. Rigatoni, pasta shells, or paccheri work well! 
  • Parmigiano Reggiano – I love using Pecorino Romano cheese to substitute for grated Parmesan cheese. 

Variations

  • Meatless – make this recipe vegetarian, by simply omitting the chicken breast. You’ll still have a decadently rich vodka pasta sauce. 
  • Herbs – try another fresh herb instead of parsley. Basil, thyme, or oregano would make a delicious addition!
  • Chicken – don’t have chicken breast? Why don’t you try using sweet Italian sausages, bacon, pancetta, or shredded rotisserie chicken instead? 

Equipment

To make my Chicken Vodka Pasta you’ll need a large frying pan or skillet for cooking the sauce and a large pot to boil the pasta. Plus a few basic kitchen utensils and chopping boards. All items should already be in your kitchen!

Storage

Like all pasta dishes, this Chicken Vodka Pasta is best eaten when freshly cooked and still piping hot. However, if you have leftovers, you can store these in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I like to reheat the leftovers on the stovetop by adding a little extra water and stirring as it warms through. Alternatively, use your microwave.

I don’t recommend freezing the leftovers as frozen cooked pasta never reheats well. Plus I don’t think you’ll ever have to resort to this measure – Vodka Chicken Pasta is just too tasty and never lasts long!

Top tips

Penne pasta in creamy tomato sauce viewed from above.
  • Cook your pasta in boiling salted water so the flavor of the pasta can be tasted. You’ll need more salt than you think, it should taste like the sea.
  • Once you’ve dropped your pasta into the boiling water, stir it to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) add olive oil. 
  • When your pasta is cooked, drain it and immediately add it to the rich chicken vodka sauce. Stir the sauce through the pasta so it doesn’t stick. 
  • Don’t forget to puree the whole tomatoes or pass them through a sieve. While this is an extra step, you’ll get a much smoother sauce.
  • Don’t clean the skillet after you have fried the chicken breast. The oil in the pan will be seasoned with delicious chicken savoriness and add more flavor to this Chicken and Vodka Pasta. 
  • Take care not to overcook the cream and vodka. After adding to the sauce, just simmer together for around 2 minutes then take your pan off the heat. 

FAQ

What meat goes with vodka sauce?

Originally, the penne alla vodka recipe was made without any meat and the flavor is still unbelievable. I like to add chicken as it makes the dish a little more satisfying but you could really use anything you have on hand. Bacon, sweet Italian sausages, and rotisserie chicken would be equally delicious. 

Can kids eat vodka sauce?

Yes! While vodka is in this sauce, the alcohol gets cooked off quickly and leaves just the delicious flavor. Of course, if you’re still concerned about serving this to your children, omit the vodka and add a little of the pasta cooking water. 

Why is vodka pasta so good? 

The addition of vodka adds flavor to this creamy sauce and acts as an emulsifier to keep the cream and tomato as one. This result is a lusciously smooth and creamy tomato sauce that coats pasta perfectly. 

Serving Suggestions

Close up of penne pasta coated in creamy tomato sauce in a bowl.

My Chicken and Vodka Pasta makes a wonderful midweek meal on its own. However, if you’re cooking it for a special occasion, I love to serve it alongside my Homemade Ciabatta Garlic Bread or my Grissini Breadsticks. Include a few Italian Rice Balls to begin with and then for dessert, try my Italian Tiramisu Cups or Italian Lemon Cake.

Made this recipe?
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Chicken and Vodka Pasta in a shallow bowl with another bowl in the background.

Chicken Vodka Pasta

Chicken and Vodka Pasta combines the classic, creamy vodka sauce with tender chicken in just 30 minutes. An ideal midweek meal or special enough for dinner with friends.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings:6 people
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) penne pasta
  • 1 pound (450 grams) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup (60mls) extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ brown onion
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces (800 grams) canned whole tomatoes
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (60 mls) vodka
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving

Instructions

  • Peel and finely chop the onion. Puree the whole tomatoes in a food processor or pass through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside until later.
  • Slice the chicken into strips.
  • Heat ½ of the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan or skillet.
  • Add the chicken and fry until browned. Remove and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the same pan without cleaning it.
  • Add the onion to the pan. Saute gently until golden.
  • Stir in the red pepper flakes followed by the tomato puree and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • While the sauce is cooking, cook the penne pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  • When the sauce has simmered for 10 minutes, stir in the cream.
  • Then add the browned chicken and vodka. Stir and allow to simmer for a minute or two.
  • Taste and adjust the sauce for seasoning.
  • Drain the pasta and stir into the chicken vodka sauce along with parsley.
  • Serve hot with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 564kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 736mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 575IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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3 Comments

    1. It will be fine. Penne and other tubular pasta is better for this recipe because the sauce gets caught inside the pasta – YUM! But if that’s all you have, it’ll still be tasty. Next time try to plan ahead and purchase penne or something similar. Enjoy, Jamie!