Recipe Alert! Penne alla Vodka with Meatballs


Vodka Sauce should be a mortal sin.. if you’re a professional chef.  It’s not authentic Italian and the vodka in it doesn’t actually add much flavor.  So why is it on so many restaurant menus?  Because they can put it there and it sounds cool.  I find vodka sauce to be a lightened up version of hearty marinara.  Here’s my healthier version of this restaurant made classic with homemade meatballs.


  • 1 lb. ground turkey 93/7
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesean cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp.  italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp. worscheshire sauce
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups store-bought spaghetti sauce or home-made marinara sauce (I use home made in mine)
  • 1 cup skim shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tsp. garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 box penne
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mix in a large bowl: ground turkey, bread crumbs, parmasean cheese, italian seasoning, parsley, garlic powder, worsheshire sauce, salt and pepper.
  2. Roll your meatballs.  I make my meatballs pretty moderate sized.  1 lb. for me makes about 32 meatballs.
  3. Bake the meatballs at 375degrees for about 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through.  They should be slightly golden when done.
  4. While the meatballs are cooking, cook and drain the penne.
  5. Also start your sauce in a medium sauce pot.  Cook the garlic with a bit of olive oil for a couple of minutes over medium heat.
  6. Add the mariara sauce a bit at a time to help deglaze the pan.  Warm the sauce up for about 5 minutes then add the vodka.
  7. Simmer together for another 5-10 minutes then add the mozzarella.  Stir until melted.  You should the sauce lighten in color.  If you like a richer sauce, you can add more cheese.  At this point, people generally add some heavy cream – but I find it tastes just as good without the cream and it cuts calories.

The meatballs should be about done by now so it’s time for assembling!  I put a bit of penne at the bottom of a bowl, add the meatballs on top and spoon a bit of sauce on.  I also serve this with a glass of rose win and some homemade garlic bread (ciabatta, olive oil, and chopped garlic toasted to perfection). This recipe makes 4 servings with leftover meatballs (or 8 if you use the whole box of penne)  The entire pasta dish runs about approximately 440 calories per serving (assuming 4 meatballs per serving).

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