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.
Serve pasta with a side of Air Fried Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts or String Beans. Pair it with the Almond Flour Brownies for a fun meal that the entire family will enjoy.
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
- 1 pound pasta
- 28 oz marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- ½ cup vodka
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano grated
- ¼ cup Parsley chopped
- 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
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You certainly are on your instant pot kick eh? It looks delicious. How does that differ from a pressure cooker? I have neither and don't have the room either, but was just curious?
Thank you Loretta! It is an electric pressure cooker that cooks food much faster without having to baby sit the food while it is cooking. It also has an sauté option, so you can sauté your onions and garlic before making some dishes so there is more flavor. And lastly makes great homemade yogurt!!
Some instant pots can do pressure cooking as well as other things like slow cooker and steaming as well. But it's difficult if not impossible to do those things with a pressure cooker.
All Instant Pots have steam and slow cooker options. I agree it can be also achieved with a traditional pressure cooker.
Hans Susser says
Great looking dish 🙂
Thank you Hans!
Just wanted to stop by and thank you for this fabulous recipe. I made it last night, but substituted gin for the vodka (don't judge - it's a real thing!). I took your suggestion and used my immersion blender on whole Marzano canned tomatoes, and tossed in some baby spinach leaves when it was done. Yum! Will be trying your other recipes as well. Thanks so much!
Hi Miki, Thank you so much for taking time to give me your feedback. So judgements - Vodka, Gin, all good!! Love adding Spinach to the pasta too. Hope you enjoy rest of my recipes too.
This looks SO good, cant wait to try this in my Instant Pot. I hope you continue posting more IP recipes that are vegetarian friendly. My mom and sister love your site too 🙂
Hi Sujana! Pasta comes out so creamy in the Instant Pot and this recipe is better than any restaurant penne all vodka I have had. So happy to hear that your sister and mom also love my recipes. Thank you for your feedback, they make my day 🙂
This sounds wonderful and looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing this! You have so many great recipes that i have never tried that I would love to. kelly tupick
Thank you Kelly!
Any good substitutes for Vodka? We can’t use alcohol in our food. Thanks!
Just skip it or add veggie broth
Can I add water instead of vodka?
yes. use the water to deglaze the pot.
I want to try this. Can I skip Vodka in this recipe
Yes! You can skip vodka.
I bought Victoria's vodka sauce. How much do I use for regular Barilla penne pasta?
I would add half of the pasta sauce and remaining water(to help Instant Pot come to pressure properly) until most of the pasta is under water. You can stir in remaining sauce after the pressure cooking cycle is complete.
I made this tonight, it was WONDERFUL. I modified it a smidge; I used half&half instead of heavy cream (because that's what I had on hand) and I only used 3/4 of a box of store brand dry pasta penne (I wanted it to be more saucy). I cooked it for 3 min and I've just impressed my very picky parents xD
thanks for this 🙂 ♥
Hi Elena! Thank you for your lovely feedback. So happy to hear that your parents enjoyed it too.
What kinds of vodka do you use for cooking?
Smirnoff works well for me. But any vodka should do.
Loved the recipe! I got a burnt error though. I added more water and tried to cook it until the pasta was done. Added veggies at end. Any way to avoid the burnt message in this recipe? I added vodka pasta sauce to the TJ brown rice pasta. I did add water but maybe not enough?
Hi Binta, yes the regular vodka sauce is on the thicker side and will need additional 1/2 cup of water. Also just layer the sauce over the pasta. You do not need to mix in.
Do you increase cooking time when you double the recipe?
Hi Donna, Same Pressure cooking time. Only the Instant Pot will take longer to come to pressure.
Can you substitute milk for heavy cream? If so, how much milk to use?
Yes! Same amount
Instead of puréed tomatoes can I add tomato sauce?
Yes! That works well too.
So if you use Trader Joe’s brown rice penne do you pressure cook for 7-10 minutes instead of 4?
Cook it for 4 mins. I used Trader Joe's brown rice pasta in this recipe. I mentioned the cook times on the
package just as a reference.
Thanks for the recipe! The video has the tomato sauce mixed in instead of layered on top of the water mentioned in the tips. Which method is better?
Layer on top as mentioned in the tips.
Hi! I’m so excited to try this! Any recommendations if I wanted to add ground meat?
Add ground meat after onions and cook for a minute breaking it in. Make sure to deglaze the Pot well with the vodka so there is no food sticking at the bottom of the pot. Hit cancel on sauté while you deglaze so the pot does not overheat. Enjoy, this is a delicious meal ❤️
How do I make just the sauce?
Sauce can be made on the stove top or just sauté mode on instant pot. Follow same steps minus the pasta. No need to pressure cook.
Archana Patel says
Hi, Can I double or triple the recipe and make in a 6 quart? Will the cook time remain the same?
I would suggested cooking only 1 box of pasta at a time in 6 QT to avoid mushy pasta on the bottom of the pot.