Salmon Penne alla Vodka

This salmon penne with tomato vodka sauce is a delicious way to dress up a classic pasta dish with one of our favorite fish. It's decadent, but comes together in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

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Salmon penne alla vodka in a blue bowl on a wooden table with place setting.

Penne with Vodka Sauce and Salmon

I could call this recipe Quick and Easy Penne with Vodka Sauce and Salmon, but honestly, doesn’t Salmon Penne alla Vodka sound so much better? It gives it an Italian flair and lets us in on the secret that this is a decadent and delicious meal. No-one needs to know how easy it is to put together and how it can be made in under 30 minutes. Let everyone believe in your mastery in the kitchen and the time you devote to feeding them well. I won’t tell.

Ingredients on a wooden table - canned tomatoes, parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, chili flake, vodka, cream and basil.

Easy Tomato Vodka Sauce

There are very few ingredients in a classic tomato vodka sauce, so make sure you use the best ingredients you can find. That means really good quality tomatoes and true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Those two ingredients will set the bar for flavor in this recipe. You can read all about how to make Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce here, but I’ve included the directions in the recipe card as well so you don’t have to go back and forth.


Salmon chopped into cubes on a little white cutting board on a blue countertop with a pan of tomato vodka sauce, some basil and a tin of penne pasta.

How to Choose Salmon

When purchasing salmon for this recipe, you don’t need to go top shelf. The most important thing to look for when buying any fish is to know its source. Wild salmon or ethically-raised and sustainable salmon is the best choice. If it’s not abundantly clear in labeling, just ask behind the fish counter to learn more about what you’re purchasing. I like both Pacific and Atlantic salmon, and am especially fond of Scottish salmon, but there are lots of different options available these days. (Read about how to skin and fillet a side of salmon here.) 


Salmon Penne alla Vodka in a blue bowl on a wooden table with a glass of wine.

How to Cook Salmon for Penne alla Vodka

You could make your life a little more difficult and sear the salmon for this pasta dish. You could pan roast it or air-fry the fillets and then break it up into the tomato vodka cream sauce. Or… you could follow this easy recipe and just let the cubes of salmon cook in the sauce for 4 to 6 minutes. So easy. So quick. So delicious.

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Salmon Penne alla Vodka

  • Prep Time: 5 m
  • Cook Time: 20 m
  • Total Time: 28 m
  • Servings:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely diced onion about ½ onion
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of tomatoes, crushed
  • cup vodka
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 (5-ounce) fillets of salmon, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces goat cheese optional
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill or fresh basil chopped (optional)


  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Pre-heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter and sauté the onion and for a couple of minutes, until they start to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and vodka and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  5. Add the heavy cream and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the salmon and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the salmon is opaque and cooked through and the sauce has thickened a little.
  7. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta water ahead of time and toss the pasta directly into the pan with the sauce. Mix the pasta and sauce together gently, adding reserved pasta water if, and as needed. Sprinkle in the goat cheese (if using) and swirl lightly. Season to taste with salt.
  8. Serve pasta with fresh dill sprinkled on top.
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Comments (12)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    Wow……we made this tonight and it was fabulous!!! We eat sooooo much salmon and I was sick of the “same ole same ole” recipes so I jumped on your site to see what recipes you had and we picked this one.

    So easy to make and incredibly flavorful! I love all of your recipes and am so glad your share your talent and love of food with us!

    1. Hi Monica. I always salt the water when cooking pasta, although if you are on a low sodium diet, you don’t have to.

  2. Wonderful! My husband let out ohs and ahs throughout the meal. I’d make this for company without a moment’s hesitation. My only negative was the lack of direction as regards the 2 cloves of garlic. I did smash and peel them but then what? I did add them to the pot when I added the hot red pepper and salt. You might want to “fix” the directions to include the smashed garlic. Other than that oversight, in this home, we rate this dish 11 stars out of 10!! 😉

    1. So glad you and your husband enjoyed the recipe. Sorry about the omission of the garlic in the directions. It has been corrected. You were right to add the garlic after sautéing the onions. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  3. 5 stars
    This is so simple and quick to make, I was amazed at how delicious it is. I put about a pound of salmon, a little less pasta and shallot instead of onion; otherwise followed the recipe. Be sure to use good vodka. I have made it several times and it is always a big hit. Thank you so much. Buon appetito!

    1. You can substitute shrimp easily in this recipe. You can either add the shrimp the same time that you would add the salmon, or you can sear the shrimp for a minute or two on each side in a separate pan and add it to the sauce at the end.

  4. I usually do a vegetarian vodka. I’d love to try this. Does the salmon cooking in the sauce rather than separately change the taste of the sauce?

    1. Hi Karin,
      The main purpose for cooking the salmon right in the sauce is because it is easy, the salmon stays moist and you don’t have to dirty another pan. It flavors the sauce slightly, but it’s not the primary reason for doing it this way. You could definitely just sear and sauté a nice fillet of salmon and place it on top of the pasta with vodka sauce for a different and elegant presentation. Then, people would just flake the salmon at the table.

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