No Cream-No Cry Penne alla Vodka


Now Eat This!

Published by Ballantine Books

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Editor's Note: Vodka sauce is the perfect marriage of tomato and cream, but No Cream-No Cry Penne alla Vodka is one pasta recipe you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in. If you've been wondering how to make vodka sauce that's not heavy on the calories, here it is: this low-fat vodka sauce recipe swaps out the cream for Greek yogurt, maintaining the rich flavor of the sauce while cutting the fat and calories. Pair it with whole-wheat penne for a penne alla vodka recipe that you can really feel good about.
The dirty little secret about Penne alia Vodka is not the vodka but the hefty amount of heavy cream. Vodka is colorless, odorless, and without much flavor--not really attributes of a superstar ingredient. It’s the combination of cream and tomato sauce that gives this dish its signature flavor. The traditional cream is swapped here for low-fat Greek yogurt.




Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCooking for a date

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Halal, Healthy, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegetarian


Taste and TextureCreamy, Herby, Rich

Type of DishPasta


  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 2 cups Rocco’s How Low Can You Go Low-Fat Marinara Sauce or store-bought low-fat marinara sauce
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • One 7-ounce container 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, about 9 minutes; drain.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, bring the marinara sauce and crushed red pepper to a simmer in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook the sauce, stirring it occasionally with a heat-resistant rubber spatula, until it is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the saute pan from the heat.

  3. Stir about ½ cup of the marinara sauce into the yogurt until smooth (this tempers it and prevents the yogurt from curdling). Then whisk the yogurt mixture back into the marinara sauce.

  4. In a large serving bowl, toss the sauce with the drained penne and the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and serve.

Healthy Tips:

Whole-wheat pasta has a dense texture that makes it a little tougher than regular pasta. Some people like that chewiness; some don’t. If you’re in the latter category, overcook it a bit. Toward the end of the cooking time, keep testing it until it’s as tender as you like it.


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I don't care what you call it. It is delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

I have to disagree with a comment you made. Although the vodka does not have any flavour itself, the ethanol in the vodka extracts flavours from the tomato that cannot be done with just water alone (the only major liquid present in tomatoes, cream etc.). I'm a chemist. Trust me on this. All you've done here is make a glorified rose-sauce. Sorry Joseph, you need the vodka to get that particular tangyness apparent in all other vodka sauces. Yes, there is cream, too. But, like I said, there is a difference between a rose sauce and a vodka sauce


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