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Simple Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka

Our Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka has all the great flavors of onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, and heavy cream tossed with tender penne noodles just like the stove top version. Only this version takes less time, since it’s made in a pressure cooker.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to write this post. Penne alla vodka is one of my all time favorite pasta dishes, so I’m pretty particular about how it’s prepared.

In fact, this penne alla vodka recipe that’s made on the stove top is hands down my favorite way to cook it. However, that’s not always an option.

Weeknights, and weekends, get very busy around our house, and there’s not always time to let a sauce simmer.

That’s where the Instant Pot comes in! We’ve taken our original penne and vodka sauce recipe, and adapted it for the Instant Pot.

It’s not only faster, but it’s really tasty, too. If the “vodka” part doesn’t sound appealing, we certainly understand.

Something like the supreme pizza pasta, Mongolian chicken, or chicken taco soup may make a better option. 🙂

Two bowls of penne with vodka sauce and basil.

What is Vodka Sauce?

Several people have asked us this question, so here’s a quick explanation. Vodka sauce is made from tomato sauce, herbs, vodka, and cream.

It’s orange or pink in color and has a creamy consistency. The vodka is used to bring out flavor in the tomatoes and keep the sauce stable.

The alcohol is cooked out, so there’s no boozy aftertaste. If you’d rather leave the vodka out entirely, the pasta sauce will become more of a tomato cream sauce.

Onions, garlic, cream, tomato puree, penne, and basil used in a vodka sauce recipe.

How to Make Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka:

As I mentioned above, this Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka recipe is adapted from our other recipe, so there are a few differences. It’s also worth noting that we don’t claim either recipe to be “traditional” or “authentic.”

Please see the “Tips” section below for different variations of how we like to make this dish and be sure to tell us your favorite way to make it, too!

Start by prepping all the ingredients, and turning the Instant Pot to saute. After the liner gets hot, add the olive oil, onions, salt, and red pepper flakes.

Use a wooden spoon to stir the ingredients until the onions begin to soften. This usually takes about 5 minutes. Next add the garlic, and cook an additional 3o seconds.

Top down view of garlic, onions, salt, and red pepper flakes in the Instant Pot for penne with vodka sauce recipe.

Add the vodka next, and cook down until it’s reduced by half. Turn off the Instant Pot, and add the noodles.

We use penne, but any short noodle can be used. Rotini, rigatoni, and ziti are some other great options. 

Pour the water over the penne making sure that it just covers the noodles. Three cups of water was perfect using one pound of penne, but this may vary depending on the type/size of pasta. Adjust as needed.

Add the tomato puree last, but DO NOT STIR. This is super important! You’ll want the tomato puree sitting on top of the noodles away from the liner of the Instant Pot.

Tomato puree has both starch and sugar making it more susceptible to burning, so it’s best to add it last.

Top down view of the penne with vodka sauce recipe in the Instant Pot showing the tomato puree on top of the penne noodles and water.

Next, close the lid and the valve. Use the manual/pressure cook button and adjust the time to six minutes.

After the time is up, open the valve for a quick release of pressure.

Carefully pour in the heavy cream and stir to combine. Top with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, basil, or your other favorite toppings. Serve hot!

Top down view of penne with vodka sauce in the Instant Pot.

Tips for the Best Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka:

  • Salt. This one might be a bit controversial, but I couldn’t write this post without mentioning it. You’ll notice that the recipe below calls for 2 teaspoons of salt. Personally, I put a lot more when I make this vodka sauce for John, Kale, and me. However, the saltiness of some of our dishes leads to negative comments from time to time. Readers either love it or hate it. This time I went on the lighter side salt-wise, but if your finished dish tastes flat or bland, add a touch more salt. It really helps the flavor pop. Two teaspoons may seem like a lot of salt to some, but may fall short to others, so please season accordingly.
  • To follow along with the “salt” recommendation above, I also recommend doubling the amount of garlic and onions listed below. That’s how I make it for family. Recognizing that a lot of people are sensitive to heavy flavors, I cut both of those ingredients back for this recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the penne with vodka sauce recipe that I’m sharing with you. However, I completely understand that some of these flavors are strong, so they’re cut back a bit to be more mellow.
  • In regards to the tomato puree, it’s my favorite tomato product for this vodka sauce recipe. I’ve tried crushed tomatoes, and there’s not enough liquid to make a sauce. Tomato sauce is too thin, and diced tomatoes didn’t work. Tomato puree is my go-to!
Two white bowls filled with penne with vodka sauce and fresh basil.
  • This Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka makes a creamy sauce that’s thick and coats the noodles well. The sauce does get thicker as it cools. For a thinner sauce, use 1 cup of heavy cream instead of 1/2 cup. The flavor will change slightly, but the sauce will thin out and lighten in color. There are so many variations of homemade vodka sauce.
  • Some include peas, prosciutto, grilled chicken, or basil. Any of these would make wonderful additions to this dish, so we encourage you to add what you like.

We’d love to hear how to you made this penne alla vodka recipe. Please leave us a comment, and let us know.

If you like this penne with vodka sauce recipe, please leave us a comment and rate the recipe card. You can also find us on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram searching for Berly’s Kitchen!

Two white bowls filled with penne with vodka sauce and fresh basil.

Simple Instant Pot Penne alla Vodka

4.9 from 8 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 21 minutes
Come to Pressure: 20 minutes
Total Time: 51 minutes
Servings: 8 Servings

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  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup White or Yellow Onion (diced)
  • 2 Teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 6 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Cup Vodka
  • 1 Pound Penne Pasta (16 Ounces, uncooked)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 28 Ounce Can Tomato Puree
  • .5 Cup Heavy Cream


  • Turn the Instant Pot to saute, and allow the liner to get hot. Add the olive oil, onions, salt, and red pepper flakes. Use a wooden spoon to stir the onions until they begin to soften.
  • Add the garlic, and cook an additional 30 seconds. Pour in the vodka, and cook until the vodka reduces by half. Turn off the Instant Pot.
  • Pour in the noodles, and then add the water. There should be enough water to just cover the noodles. If there isn’t, add more water until the pasta is covered.
  • Last, pour on the tomato puree. DO NOT STIR!! Close the lid and the set the valve to sealing. Use the manual/pressure cook button, and adjust the time to 6 minutes.
  • After the time is up, open the valve for a quick release. Carefully, remove the lid and stir in the heavy cream.
  • Top with your favorite cheese or fresh basil. Serve hot! Store any remaining pasta in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


*Calories listed are an approximated and based on the ingredients/servings used. 
*Please see post for more detailed information about the recipe including cooking tips, best practices, and recipe variations.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 263kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 547mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g
Recipe Rating

Kevin M

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

If I were to add a little turkey sausage I have on end would I saute that with the onions at the beginning?


Thursday 10th of March 2022

That is correct, Kevin. Sauté the sausage and onions together. Thanks for asking and have a great day :)


Wednesday 15th of July 2020

Can we add shrimp? If so when?


Thursday 16th of July 2020

Good Morning Margy, that’s a wonderful question. Kim and I have never tried that before. However, if we tried to add seafood, then we would use thawed, deveined, and peeled shrimp. The smaller the better. Once the pasta is done cooking,(but before you stir in the heavy cream!) turn the cooker on to the saute function and stir in the shrimp. Keep stirring the pasta to keep it from burning while the shrimp cooks. Once the shellfish is cooked through, then turn off the machine and serve. I hope this information helps. Have a lovely day ?

Samer Alloussi

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

loved so easy and simple. I have a ton leftover I added can of diced tomatoes for more tomatoes


Wednesday 6th of May 2020

Thank you Samer! Kim and I are thrilled you enjoyed the pasta recipe and are glad the extra tomatoes went well with the dish. Thank you again for coming back to comment on and rate the recipe card! Have a lovely day :)

Samer Alloussi

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

loved so easy and simple. I have a ton leftover I added can of diced tomatoes for more tomatoes

Samer Alloussi

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

loved so easy and simple. I have a ton leftover I added can of diced tomatoes for more tomatoes