Skinny Penne a la Vodka

And I’m back! Thanks for bearing with me while I traveled and spent time with my sister. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. I promise I’ll catch up with all of you soon. Penne a la vodka is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s not one that I ate much growing up, but I remember ordering it as a teenager in restaurants and feeling very grown-up. My most vivid memory of this dish is from one of our high school haunts called Stingy Lulu’s on St. Mark’s Place in New York City, where the drag queen waitresses would pretend to check our ids before serving us frosty margaritas and steaming bowls of penne a la vodka.

Skinny Penne alla Vodka Recipe

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Although you can easily buy a jar of “vodka sauce,” it’s so easy to make that it’s silly not to. But the vodka and cream add up and after weeks of indulging I’m trying to lighten up my dishes a bit for the warmer weather. So I’ve replaced the calorie-laden heavy cream with nonfat Greek yogurt – is there anything that magical ingredient can’t make better? There’s still a splash of vodka and plenty of Parmesan cheese, so I’m not going to go so far as to say this dish is healthy, but it’s a step in the right direction. Whole wheat pasta might help your case.

4.9 from 10 reviews
Skinny Penne a la Vodka
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Subbing heavy cream for fat free Greek yogurt helps to lighten up this delicious pasta dish without sacrificing flavor or creaminess.
Recipe Type: Entree
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (35-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute, 5 minutes.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, vodka, and red pepper flakes, if using. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half.
  4. Stir in the yogurt and parmesan cheese. To make it extra smooth, blend it with an immersion blender here (optional). Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the penne and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, with additional parmesan.
Kosher dairy, Vegetarian

54 thoughts on “Skinny Penne a la Vodka

  1. Cucina49

    A friend recently introduced me to this dish, but I’ve held off on making it due to the health factor. I think the substitution of the Greek yogurt is genius!

  2. Ilke

    Welcome back 🙂 I think yogurt is magical as well. Add to anything I want to lighten up and use instead of mayo&cream.

    I have not been traveling in the blogsphere a lot as well and I am glad to be catching up with you !

  3. Jennifer (Delicieux)

    I love penne a la vodka. It’s not something I had heard of here in Australia, but came across it a few years ago in a cookbook and was so glad I did. I love your healthy spin on this with yoghurt. What a great idea.

  4. Tina@flourtrader

    How genius is this! We all know that the standard plating of this does ring up the calories and fat count. The substitution of the yogurt does inspire me to think of subbing it in other dishes. I just commented on another blog I need to start experimenting with different dairy products and bingo, you are ahead of me! Well done Katherine!

  5. Hotly Spiced

    Welcome back! I hope you had a good time with your sister. I love pasta and often cook it for the family for dinner because it’s so quick and easy. I haven’t made it with vodka before and so I’d love to try your recipe! xx

  6. foodwanderings

    One of my favorite pasta dishes as well Katherine. I had to laugh about your NYC upbringing, I could see you feeling all grown up in a restaurant having penne. Nice glimpse into your teenage years! 🙂

  7. Abby

    I love your story about the drag queens, haha I could just imagine it. How fun! Vodka sauce is my fav! and right before summer I could use a lighter version – will be making this.

  8. mjskit

    Welcome home! I’m sure you had a wonderful trip, but isn’t it nice to come back home? 🙂 I’ve heard of penne a la vodka but have never made it. It sounds, and of course, looks wonderful! Love your substitution of yogurt. Good for the drag queens to allow you to have fun back in high school! 🙂

  9. Bree

    Love taking a super indulgent dish like this and making it skinny. The Laughing Cow Cheeses are also great for adding that rich creaminess. This dish looks amazing and welcome back!

  10. Terra

    Oh YUM!!! It looked like you were having a lovely time with your Sister:-) I love penne a la vodka, it is so fun to make, and so elegant:-) Hugs, Terra

  11. kitchenriffs

    Welcome back! And you’ve chosen an excellent recipe for your return – one of my fav’s too. Greek yogurt rocks, doesn’t it? And I could eat past every day of the week. Good post – thanks.

  12. Sissi

    I have been meaning to make penne alla vodka for many years! Looking at your gorgeous lightened version I still wonder why I have waited so long… Thanks for this wonderful recipe.

  13. Leah

    I love penne a la vodka and using Greek yogurt instead of cream in recipes! You’re right, it’s hard to think of something greek yogurt can’t bring some awesome to. Can’t wait to make this!

  14. Sammie

    Fantastic dish!! I like that it doesn’t require a million ingredients and is SKINNY!! Thanks for sharing Kath! [can i call you Kath? 🙂 ]

  15. Hannah

    This is one of our favorite pasta dishes. Your use of Greek yogurt is inspired! I hope you had a lovely time on your travels and with your sister.

  16. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb

    I think so I had seen this dish somewhere in europe before, but I am not sure. Looks and sounds like a easy quick to prepare pasta dish, perfect when I am too lazy to cook something big. thanks for sharing your recipe Katherine!

  17. Mark

    I’m an Italian (Abruzzese) living in Ontario Canada. We love vodka sauce but we never use cream. We just add some diced pancetta in with the onion and some torn fresh basil before serving. Either way it’s wonderful – the vodka brings out all the flavors. Thank you, you have a wonderful site.

    • Katherine

      Ooh I will have to try it like that some time, it sounds wonderful! Thanks so much Mark. Leave it to us Americans to try to add cream to everything.

  18. Jen

    You just gave me such a great flashback! I’m writing a blog about Stingy Lulu’s which is how I found this post. I used to get the penne too.

  19. Lisa ann

    I made this recipe for my boyfriend and I tonight and it was delicious! I always try making healthier versions of not so healthy dishes. Thanks!

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  21. Erin

    I just made this and it delicious!!! I’m a novice when it comes to vodka sauce so I’ve only tried a few bites of friends’ dishes while out. But I wanted to try my hand at making it and didn’t want all the calories. I followed the recipe to a T. It was so good and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow!

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