This Penne alla Vodka Pasta Bake is a hearty, rich spin on classic Italian comfort food. Creamy, velvety tomato-based vodka sauce, layers of spinach, red pepper and chicken with a cheesy top make this pasta bake unforgettable!
This post is sponsored by Mutti. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that help keep my blog up and running!
How to make this pasta bake
- Saute shallots and garlic in a large pot over med-high heat, then add and lightly brown the chicken.
- Add passata, tomato paste and vodka, bringing to a boil and simmer. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F.
- Stir in whipping cream, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and red chili flakes fora few minutes and remove from heat.
- Add dried pasta, chicken broth, red pepper and spinach. Transfer pasta mixture to a large oven safe dish.
- Cover in tin foil and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and top with mozzarella cheese, then cook again until cheese is melted.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Shallots – you can use white, red, or yellow onions instead, but please note that this will alter the flavor.
- Chicken breasts – I chose chicken because it's a clean, lean meat option, but you can swap with ground beef. Alternatively, you could even use turkey breast.
- Mutti passata and tomato paste – this is the best passata and tomato paste duo for the recipe, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
- Whipping cream – milk and butter can be combined in place of the whipping cream.
- Parmesan and Mozzarella – the recipe works best using these cheeses, but you can experiment here if you're feeling bold. Parmesan can be replaced with another hard cheese like Grana Padano, and you can use provolone, cheddar, or white cheddar as a mozzarella substitute.
- Rigatoni – you can use whatever pasta you have on hand, but keep in mind that a textured noodle with a hollow center will hold the sauce better while baking than other noodles.
- Red pepper, spinach – these are optional additions to add color and texture, so feel free to leave them out or swap for other veggies like broccoli, mushrooms, and so on. I would, however, recommend using no more than 2 vegetables to keep your pasta bake from turning into a casserole.
- Chicken broth – beef or vegetable broth will also work, but use your discretion here.
What goes well with a pasta bake?
This pasta bake is quite heavy, so I love to pair it with a light side, like an arugala salad, or a small caesar salad. Some of you may even like to have some warm, toasty bread with this dish, and I wouldn't blame you!
Storing and reheating
Some oven safe dishes also have lids for storage, so you may be able to cover and transfer your pasta bake to the fridge as soon as it cools. If not, you can always place the pasta in an air-tight container instead. The pasta will keep for 3-4 days. In a bind, you can also cover the pasta dish in foil and refrigerate, although I don't recommend this if you have any other options as it can dry out the pasta bake.
To reheat, you'll want to put the pasta in an oven safe dish with tin foil covering it, and then place this in a 325 F oven for 10-20 mins depending on the size of the pasta bake you're reheating. To check if it's ready, put fork through the center of the pasta. If the fork is hot, the pasta is ready to serve, and if it's cold it'll need some more time in the oven.
To reheat in the microwave, heat pasta for 2 -3 minutes, checking halfway through using a fork through the center. A trick to keep the pasta tasting fresh is to sprinkle some water over the dish before you microwave. You can also run water over a paper towel, squeeze out the excess water, and drape this over the pasta before microwaving.
Freezing this recipe
You can freeze your pasta bake in freezer-friendly containers or, to make life easy, by cutting into sections and using freezer bags. The pasta should keep for up to 3 months frozen, but use your discretion here.
Penne alla Vodka Pasta Bake
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 small shallots, diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 chicken breasts, diced
- 1 750mL jar Mutti passata (strained tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp Mutti tomato paste
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 600g rigatoni pasta
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 cups spinach, chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- Heat olive oil in large pot over med-high heat. Add shallots and garlic, sauteeing for 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook for 3-4 min until lightly browned. Add passata, tomato paste and vodka. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F.
- Add whipping cream, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and red chili flakes, stirring well to combine. Cook for another 2-3 min then emove from heat. Add dried pasta, chicken broth, red pepper and spinach, tossing well to coat.
- Grease a large oven safe dish (I used a 9x13 baking dish) and then add pasta mixture, pushing pasta down into liquid as much as possible.
- Cook in the oven, covered in tin foil, for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and top with mozzarella cheese, then cook for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve!