This Penne and Vodka Sauce is really easy to make, and it’s a step up from regular jarred sauce. This recipe uses simple pantry ingredients that you may already have on hand and it comes together quickly. Plus you can use some of that vodka you’ve had leftover since last New Year’s Eve! We serve the penne and vodka sauce with a fried chicken cutlet, which is delicious, but the pasta and sauce are great on their own too.
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Butter
1 small Onion, diced
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ cup Vodka
28 oz. Can Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes, chopped (use kitchen shears to make quick work of this)
15 oz. Can Tomato Sauce
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated, plus some for serving
½ cup Half & Half
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper, optional
Salt, to taste – if needed
16 oz. Penne Pasta, cooked to package directions for al-dente
Fresh Basil or Parsley for Garnish, optional
Breaded and Fried Chicken Cutlets – Recipe Below
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted and foamy add the onions. Cook the onions gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then, add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Carefully, add the vodka to the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.
Add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce; stir to combine all of the ingredients well. Raise the heat; bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low, keep the sauce at a simmer, if it’s boiling too vigorously lower the heat a bit. Cook the vodka sauce for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce cooks. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remember to salt the water. Cook the penne pasta to package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta completely and set aside.
Off the heat, process the vodka sauce using an immersion blender until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, process the sauce using a blender. Note: Do not fill the blender to the top with hot liquid, process in batches.
Return the pot to low heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, Half & Half and crushed red pepper, if using. Stir the vodka sauce to combine the ingredients well and cook gently to warm through – do not let the sauce come to a boil. Taste the sauce and add salt only if needed.
Add the penne pasta to the vodka sauce and stir to combine, or serve the pasta and top with the sauce, depending on preference. Top the penne and vodka sauce with a sliced chicken cutlet, if making. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil, if desired and serve with extra Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. Enjoy!
Fried Chicken Cutlets
½ tsp. Kosher Salt, plus a little extra to season the flour and breadcrumbs
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
¼ tsp. Black Pepper, plus a pinch for the sandwiches
1 lb. Chicken Breast Cutlets, about ¼ – ½ inch thick, about 4 pieces
¼ cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Plain Breadcrumbs
Canola Oil – enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet by a ½ inch
Prepare the chicken cutlets
If you’re using purchased cutlets, make sure they are about ¼ to ½ inch thick, if they’re any thicker; pound them down using a meat mallet.
If you are starting with whole boneless chicken breasts, cut the breasts in half lengthwise to make two thinner pieces. Then, pound them down using a meat mallet until they’re about ¼ to ½ inch thick, if needed.
Add the salt, garlic powder and black pepper to a small bowl. Stir to combine well, set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken cutlets on both sides with the seasoning mix, set aside.
Prepare a breading station
Use a large baking sheet (or a couple of plates) add the flour to one side and the breadcrumbs to the other. Season the flour and breadcrumbs with a sprinkle of salt. Combine well using a fork.
Crack an egg into a medium bowl, scramble well using a fork or small whisk, set aside.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, lightly coat both sides with the flour. Shake off the excess. Next, dip the chicken cutlet in the egg mixture; make sure the chicken is evenly moist. Then, place the chicken in the breadcrumbs, apply an even coating and gently shake off the excess. Place the breaded chicken on a clean pan or plate and repeat with the remaining pieces. If you’re stacking the chicken cutlets, use a piece of parchment paper in between them so the coating doesn’t stick to itself or flake off.
Preheat the oven to warm, or its lowest setting (170°F -200°F)
Fry the chicken cutlets
Cover the bottom of a large, deep skillet with about a ½ an inch of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add about half the chicken cutlets to the skillet (depending on their size) do not overcrowd the pan, fry in batches. Fry the chicken for about 2 minutes per side, or until they’re golden brown (use tongs to turn the chicken so the breading does not flake off). Remove the chicken from the skillet and place them on a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack; this will prevent the breading from getting soggy. Repeat with the remaining pieces. When you remove each batch from the oil, take the internal temperature and make sure it’s at least 165°F. Keep the chicken in the warm oven until ready to top the pasta. Slice the chicken cutlets before serving.