Penne Alla Vodka is a classic Italian pasta dish with a smooth and creamy tomato-based sauce. This restaurant-favorite dish is simple to make at home using the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.
I love to cook food that I have enjoyed in restaurants and Penne Alla Vodka is one of my favorites. I have made this pasta on the stovetop for a long time and couldn't wait to try it in my Instant Pot. So quick, easy, and perfect every time!!
Note: Original post published in April 2017 has been updated with new photos and a video.
Pasta in the Instant Pot
So why Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot? The answer is simple - Cooking the pasta in the Instant Pot gives it a naturally creamy texture as it does require draining the excess water after pressure cooking. The starchy pasta water adds a great texture and flavor to the final dish.
Tips for perfect Instant Pot Pasta
- Add enough water/broth/tomato sauce so that most of the pasta is under the liquids
- Always layer the pasta sauce on top of the water or broth and do not mix it in. This will prevent the dreaded BURN error.
- For well-cooked pasta, pressure cook pasta for half the time on the pasta box
- For Al dente pasta, pressure cook for half the time on the pasta box minus 1 minute
- Always add cream after the pasta is done pressure cooking
- Quick releasing after pressure cooking will prevent the pasta from overcooking
Adding Vodka to Pasta
Ever wonder what flavors Vodka adds to this pasta dish? Here are a few things vodka does:
- Adds a touch of heat and sharpness
- Helps balance the sweetness of tomatoes and cream
- For anyone wondering - most of the alcohol in this recipe is cooked off and the pasta is completely safe even for kids to enjoy.
- For more info check out this article from Serious Eats
Instant Pot Pasta Cook Time
This recipe works well with regular pasta as well as gluten-free pasta. Here are a few basic things you may find useful when you are trying to figure out the Instant Pot pasta cook times for any variety of pasta.
- For regular pasta, check the cook time on the box. If you like well-cooked pasta, pressure cook it for half the time on the pasta package. So if the Package says 10 minutes, pressure cook for 5 minutes.
- If you like your pasta al dente, half the time from the package and minus one minute. So if the Package says 10 mins, pressure cook for 4 mins
- I love Trader Joe's gluten-free pasta varieties. I have used the brown rice pasta in this recipe which has cook time of 7 - 10 minutes. So for al dente pasta I pressure cook it for 4 mins followed by quick release
- Don't have marinara sauce. Here are some other substitutes that also work equally well: diced ripe plum tomatoes, canned tomato puree, Puree a can of peeled plum tomatoes, and add minced fresh garlic to it
- If you do not have Vodka or do not want to use it, simply use equal amount of broth instead
Step by Step Recipe to make Penne Alla Vodka in the Instant Pot
Step 1: Turn the Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat oil. Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes with a glass lid on. Add vodka, mix well and cook for another 2 mins to reduce the vodka.
Step 2: Add pasta, salt, water, and tomato puree. Close the Instant Pot and Pressure cook for 4 minutes (Please check the notes on the recipe card for the pressure cooking times of different types of pasta)
Step 3: Quick release the pressure and open the lid. Stir in cream. Add parsley and grated cheese. Mix well and Serve hot.
How to add protein or veggies to Penne Alla Vodka
- Sauté 1-inch cubes of boneless chicken thighs along with the onions and follow the remaining recipe
- Sauté shrimp, peas or mushrooms in the Instant Pot as the first step in some oil with salt and pepper. Keep them aside and follow the rest of the recipe. Simply add the sauteeted shrimp or veggies on the pasta before serving
- Stir in few handful of baby spinach after the pressure cooking cycle completed
Here are some more family favorite Instant Pot Pasta recipes:
- Pasta Caprese
- Spicy Taco Pasta
- Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese
- Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
- Spinach Mushroom Lasagna
Instant Pot Penne Alla Vodka
- Turn the Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat oil.
- Add onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes with a glass lid on.
- Add vodka, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes to reduce down the vodka.
- Add pasta, water, and salt. Stir well, making sure to push most of the pasta under the liquids. Layer over the tomato puree or sauce and DO NOT mix. Close the Instant Pot and pressure cook for 4 minutes followed by Quick Release.
- Stir in cream. Add parsley and grated cheese. Mix well and serve hot.
- Liquids: Add enough water/broth/tomato sauce so that most of the pasta is under the liquids. Depending on the shape of the pasta you may need more or fewer liquids.
- Tomato Sauce: Layer the marinara sauce on top of the pasta and do not mix it in
- Pasta Cook Times: For a well-cooked pasta, pressure cook pasta for half the time on the pasta box. For Al dente pasta, pressure cook for half the time on the pasta box minus 1 minute. This method also works well for gluten-free brown rice pasta.
- Cream: Always add cream after the pasta is done pressure cooking