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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.
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.
How to Make Penne alla Vodka:
As I mentioned above, this Instant Pot penne with vodka sauce 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.
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.
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!
Tips for the Best Penne alla Vodka Recipe:
- 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!
- This recipe 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.
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- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Cup White or Yellow Onion, (diced)
- 2 Teaspoons 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.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 411Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 628mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 9g