A pan of just-baked penne alla vodka.

Tieghan Gerard, author of the Half Baked Harvest cookbook and the eponymous blog, has a new book out: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple. It’s filled with more than “125 recipes for instant, overnight, meal-prepped, and easy comfort foods.”

Naturally, I’m finding myself very drawn to the “pizza & pasta” chapter, a number of which are speaking to me: butternut squash and apple pizza, made with a smear of apple butter, sautéed shallots, and ribbons of raw butternut squash (created with a vegetable peeler), “grown-up” SpaghettiOs, made with mostly tomato paste and water but which is astonishingly delicious*, and this BAKED penne alla vodka.

I love penne alla vodka and have been a devotee of Ina’s recipe for years, which takes hours to cook. Tieghan’s vodka sauce takes a fraction of the time and relies on garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and, most importantly, a half cup of slivered sun-dried tomatoes, whose flavor in the end is so subtle — it will have any recipients of your baked-pasta labors guessing.

You can serve the sauce traditionally with al dente pasta and a shaving of parmesan over top or you can take it one step further and bake it. I opted for the latter and have zero regrets.

It’s simple: after you toss the pasta with the vodka sauce, you layer half of it into a 9×13-inch baking pan, top this layer with a mix of ricotta and heavy cream, top with the remaining pasta, and finally a layer of fresh mozzarella. After 35 minutes in the oven, when the cheese is beginning to blister and the pasta tips are beginning to char, it’s done.

Serve it with a simple green salad — that’s all it needs.

5 Other Favorite Baked Pastas

*I loved this one and after making it with wagon wheels, I ordered the traditional anelli pasta, which is very hard to find in a traditional grocery store. I love the “little rings.”

Ingredients to make baked penne alla vodka sauce on a countertop.

Here’s the play by play: Gather your ingredients.

A saucepan filled with butter, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in butter.

A saucepan filled with butter, garlic, red pepper flakes and vodka.

Add vodka and reduce by a third.

A saucepan filled with vodka sauce simmering.

Add crushed tomatoes (or plum) along with sun-dried tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.

A saucepan filled with simmered vodka sauce aside an immersion blender.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then …

A saucepan filled with puréed vodka sauce.

… purée it.

A large bowl filled with cooked pasta, vodka sauce, and parmesan.

Toss very al dente pasta with the sauce and parmesan.

A bowl of pasta tossed with vodka sauce.
A 9x13-inch pan filled with one layer of penne tossed with vodka sauce.

Layer half of the pasta into a 9×13-inch baking pan.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with one layer of penne tossed with vodka sauce topped with a creamy layer of ricotta and cream.

Top with a layer of ricotta mixed with heavy cream.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with penne tossed with vodka sauce.

Top with the remaining pasta.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with unbaked penne alla vodka.

Top with fresh mozzarella and transfer to the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Just-baked penne alla vodka sauce.

Remove from the oven and let cool briefly.

A pan of just-baked penne alla vodka.
A bowl of just-baked penne alla vodka aside salad.

Serve with a simple green salad (and simple vinaigrette… this is my favorite).

A cookbook on a countertop: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple

Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest Super Simple

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A pan of just-baked penne alla vodka.

Baked Penne Alla Vodka

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4.7 from 3 reviews

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From Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest Super Simple


  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 28-oz can crushed (or whole peeled) tomatoes
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 16-oz whole milk ricotta
  • 8-oz fresh mozzarella
  • fresh basil, for serving, optional


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the vodka and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by one-third, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the crushed tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and a large pinch each salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce over medium heat until reduced slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the penne and cook for about 6 minutes (or about 4 minutes under suggested al dente cooking time.) Reserve one cup of pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta and run under cold water.
  3. When the pasta sauce has finished cooking transfer it to a blender or use an immersion blender to purée until smooth — you may need to add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to thin. I’ve been adding about a cup of pasta cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Add the sauce and parmesan and stir to combine.
  5. Heat the oven to 425ºF. In a medium bowl stir together the heavy cream and ricotta.
  6. Transfer half of the pasta mixture to a 9×13-inch baking pan. Top with the ricotta mixture, spreading to cover evenly. Top with the remaining pasta. Tear the mozzarella into pieces and scatter evenly over top. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Garnish with basil, if using, and more parmesan, if you wish.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American, Italian