Recipe Review

I Tried Tiktok’s One-Dish Baked Penne Alla Vodka and Here’s What Happened

published Sep 25, 2021
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Credit: Will Coleman

If I had to sum up my cooking style, I’d say that I go for recipes that are bursting with flavor yet require a minimal amount of prep time. And this baked penne alla vodka I saw on Tiktok seemed to check those boxes. It has all of the ingredients of my favorite pasta dish — noodles, tomato sauce, tomato paste, heavy cream, and vodka — but instead of cooking on the stovetop, everything is combined in one dish and baked. I couldn’t wait to see how it compared to the classic version. 

How to Make Baked Penne Alla Vodka

You want to start things off by preheating your oven to 350°F. In the meantime, grab your ingredients. In a large baking dish, mix all of the ingredients and season them with your favorite Italian seasonings; I chose to add garlic powder, dried chili flakes, oregano, and basil. The creator of this recipe recommends that you go heavy on the vodka when preparing this recipe, but I’ll leave that up to you!

After mixing everything, place it into the oven, uncovered, and cook for one hour, stirring halfway through. After cooking, remove it from the oven and give it one final stir. You can dive right in or grab some grated Parmesan and chopped basil for a tasty garnish. 

Credit: Will Coleman

My Honest Review

I must say that I was incredibly eager to give this recipe a try, as I’m in love with anything and everything pasta-related and can drink vodka sauce through a straw. But after trying this pasta dish fresh out of the oven, I was disappointed. First, let’s start by discussing why I’m obsessed with vodka sauce.

  1. The process of frying garlic, chili flakes, and tomato paste in a few tablespoons of olive oil and butter creates a fragrant smell and flavor like no other.
  2. This is one of the easiest and least time-consuming pasta sauces to make. The sauce takes around 30 minutes to prepare, and I always cook my pasta while the sauce is simmering away. 
  3. Vodka sauce is beyond forgiving; it takes a lot to mess it up. 

Now that my vodka sauce tangent is out of the way, let’s talk about why this recipe didn’t live up to the hype. Other than taking over an hour to make, I found that the noodles had a gummy texture and the sauce carried over no depth of flavor. After a few bites, one of my friends at the table said, “It tastes just like ingredients thrown all together in one dish.” In all fairness, that’s precisely what the recipe called for.

The sauce of this pasta was thin and the flavor was disappointingly flat. When you add ingredients like tomato paste into any sauce, it requires some extra love and attention by cooking it in fat to develop the flavors further. I’m no pasta expert, but I do know that you can’t take shortcuts on everything when your goal is to create layers of flavor. 

My #1 Tip for Making Baked Penne Alla Vodka

The idea of baking uncooked noodles in a bath of sauce isn’t anything new to the internet, especially with the viral #MacHack. I must admit, though, that I’m not here for it. Within the amount of time you spend preparing and cooking this penne alla vodka recipe, you can make it on the stove with better results. When you throw all of your ingredients into a casserole dish and leave the oven to do all of the work for you, you miss out on so much flavor. If you’re looking to make a delicious vodka sauce on the stove in half the amount of time, then check out one of my favorites from @grossypelosi.