This Chicken Vodka Pasta is thick, luxurious and is ready in 30 minutes. It is fast and will please everyone at the diner table. Skip vodka to make it family friendly!
A splash of heavy cream and vodka can turn a basic jar of tomato sauce into a luxurious restaurant worthy meal. Vodka cuts through the richness and adds a zing to the chicken vodka pasta dish.
I shared a Penne Alla Vodka Recipe made in Instant Pot a while ago and you guys have been loving it so much, that I decided to share a version made on stove top.
The origin for penne all vodka is believed to be a marketing trick devised by a vodka company in the eighties. Some argue that it originated in a new York restaurant Orsini in the seventies. Either way, the chicken vodka pasta is as easy as marinara variations get.
Heavy cream gives the tomato sauce richness and body like in instant pot shrimp pasta, but also reduces the flavor of tomatoes. Vodka is made by fermenting and distilling starch, which is then passed through a filteration system and then diluted with water. It brightens and helps to balance the sweetness.
Why you'll love this?
- Ready in 30 minutes
- Make it without vodka, to make it alcohol-free.
- Customize it! Skip chicken or add veggies to make a complete meal.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Penne pasta - Penne or short shapes are excellent for trapping and holding onto the sauce.
- Chicken - Boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts.
- Marinara sauce – Use your favorite jarred marinara sauce.
- Heavy cream - Adds richness rounding out the acidity in tomatoes.
- Vodka – It adds a subtle bite and zing. Don't invest in a premium bottle, use whatever you have at home.
- Onion - Sautéed onion adds sweetness and texture.
- Parmesan - Adds a depth and complex flavors.
Pro tip: Save your premium bottle of vodka for your drinks and cheaper vodka is fine to use in cooking, like in this cooking chicken vodka pasta.
My favorite part about this chicken vodka pasta recipe is that you can customize with whatever you have at home. Mix-in any of the following ingredients -
- Without Vodka - Simply replace vodka with water
- Shrimp - Cook shrimp before adding chicken, transfer to a bowl and then proceed to the recipe. Stir in cooked shrimp along with pasta.
- Broccoli - Add broccoli to the boiling water during the last couple of minutes of pasta cooking. Drain along with pasta and stir into the dish along with penne.
- Peas - Add frozen peas to the boiling water during the last couple of minutes of pasta cooking. Drain along with pasta and stir into the sauce along with penne.
- Spinach - Stir in baby spinach during the last couple of minutes.
- Mushrooms - Cook sliced mushrooms before adding chicken, transfer to a bowl and then proceed to the recipe. Stir in cooked mushrooms along with pasta.
- Rotisserie chicken - Stir in chopped rotisserie chicken along with marinara sauce, like it chicken pasta salad.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
1.Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add butter when hot and let melt. Add chicken and spread them into a single layer. Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes, without disturbing.
2 & 3. Add onion, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to the chicken, cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked and onion is translucent.
4 & 5. Stir in marinara sauce, heavy cream and vodka. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced slightly and thickened.
Tip: Is vodka absolute necessary? Well it wouldn't be vodka sauce without it. But, use water to make it family friendly and you wouldn't miss it.
6, 7 & 8. Stir in cooked pasta, parmesan cheese and basil. Toss well.
How to serve?
This pasta is delicious on it own or can be served with garlic bread, parmesan bread bites or soft garlic knots.
How to store leftovers?
- To refrigerate - Refrigerate leftover chicken vodka pasta in air tight containers for up to 5 days. Microwave until heated through.
- To freeze: Transfer into a freezer safe container, seal tight and freeze for up to a month. Simply thaw at room temperature and warm in microwave to re heat.
How to make ahead?
Make chicken and vodka sauce in advance:
- Prepare the sauce according to the recipe instructions (do not add pasta), cool and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- To reheat, pour the sauce back into a saucepan and cook in low heat, until heated through.
Make pasta in advance:
- Cook pasta until al dente, drain and rinse thoroughly (this helps the pasta not stick to each other).
- Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Add pasta to hot sauce to reheat and stir in low heat for a few minutes.
- Chicken thighs - Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts.
- Make it healthy - Use canned coconut milk instead of heavy cream.
- Make it spicy - Increase red pepper flakes to about 1 tablespoon or more to make a spicy chicken vodka pasta.
- Make it vegan - Use olive oil instead of butter, coconut milk instead of heavy cream and dairy free parmesan cheese instead.
- Simmer until thickened - This will ensure that the alcohol will cook off. If you don’t cook the sauce long enough, you may end up with a harsh aftertaste from the alcohol.
Although most of the alcohol is cooked off, some is still retained in the sauce, which imparts a sharp bite and zing.
Well, it wouldn't be vodka sauce without it! Since a lot of the alcohol is cooked off, you will not be left with the alcoholic taste. It rather intensifies the flavors. The chicken vodka pasta is enhanced with heavy cream and parmesan which makes it amazingly creamy.
Vodka adds a touch of heat, with a bite of sharp bite that helps balance the sweetness of the cream and tomatoes. It adds a faint hint of sharpness.
More pasta recipes
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Chicken Vodka Pasta
- 8 ounce penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter unsalted
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes use more or less
- 1 and ½ cups marinara sauce I used Prego (tomato, basil and garlic)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup Vodka plain
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt I used ¾ teaspoon
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil leaves chopped
- Cook pasta until al dente and drain.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add butter when hot and let melt. Add chicken and spread them into a single layer. Let cook for 2 to 3 minutes (without disturbing).
- Add onion, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to the chicken, cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked and onion is translucent.
- Stir in marinara sauce, heavy cream and vodka. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced slightly and thickened.
- Stir in cooked pasta, parmesan cheese and basil. Toss well and serve.
Nutritional information is based on third party calculations, should be considered estimates and not be construed as a guarantee. Varying factors such as product types, brands purchased, produce, the way ingredients are processed and more change the nutritional information in any recipe.
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I have made this twice and we have enjoyed it very much first time with vodka and this time with out.
Glad you loved it hun, Maria
Delicious and easy meal. I used 1/2 and 1/2 instead of heavy cream because it was what I had and it worked fine. Would probably be even better with cream. I added mushrooms and spinach…. So delicious. Thank you!
Glad you liked it hun, Maria
Made it tonight, using up partial jars of commercial marinara and vodka sauce. Added mushrooms, used cook chicken. Lovely and very easy dinner.
Happy to hear hun, have a wonderful day - Maria