Gin Penne Pasta recipe

Gin Penne Pasta

Gin Penne Pasta - This recipe is a nice variation of traditional vodka sauce with gin. Gin has a lot of herbal notes that makes for a fantastic pasta sauce!

It seemed like there was a phase in the cooking world, and maybe it’s still happening, when vodka pasta sauce was the freakin’ bee’s knees.

It was the sexiest thing you could do to pasta.

I’ve definitely made it and ate it and enjoyed it, although I’ve never posted on it.

Here’s my problem with vodka sauce:  Good vodka is specifically engineered to be tasteless.  That’s why it’s great for mixed drinks.  It really has almost no taste.

So wouldn’t it make sense to make a sauce with booze that has some flavor?  More importantly, maybe booze that has some herbal flavors that would go well with tomatoes and cheese?

Gin has these flavors and it will kick your pasta sauce up a notch. I tried it in this Gin Penne Pasta recipe!

Gin Penne Pasta recipe

Gin Penne Pasta

This recipe is a nice variation of traditional vodka sauce with gin. Gin has a lot of herbal notes that makes for a fantastic pasta sauce!
3.53 from 159 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 Servings
Yield 4 Pasta Bowls


  • 1 pound penne pasta cooked *al dente
  • ½ onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup gin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • ¼ cup fresh basil minced
  • Salt and pepper


  • In a medium pot, add olive oil, onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes and begin cooking over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant. Be careful not to brown the onions and garlic. You just want them soft.
  • Add in tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  • Remove sauce from heat and blend with a stick blender, or normal blender until sauce is fairly smooth. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Add gin and sugar to sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or so until alcohol cooks off from gin. You’ll know when it’s ready because it won’t smell like strong alcohol.
  • Stir in cream, Parmesan cheese, and basil and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  • Cook pasta according to package. Make sure to pull it when it is al dente or has a slight bite to it still.
  • Drain pasta well and add directly to sauce. Stir together.
  • Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil!


Serving: 1BowlCalories: 887kcalCarbohydrates: 100gProtein: 22gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 515mgPotassium: 716mgFiber: 6gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 929IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 265mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Gin Pasta Sauce, Homemade Pasta Sauce, Pasta at home, Penne Pasta

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Gin Penne Pasta

Gin Over Vodka

I was a bit worried when I had the idea for this sauce that I would go too far in the other direction.  I was worried that gin would have too much flavor and completely overpower the sauce.  I started slow and added a quarter of a cup to the sauce, let it simmer and tasted it.

At the end of it, I decided that about a cup of gin is the right amount.  Even though gin has a pretty strong flavor on its own, when it cooks down and mixes with the other ingredients, it’s a subtle but nice flavor.

Basically, I think it gives the sauce some interesting complexity that definitely can’t be found with a vodka sauce.  Gin after all is made with a fair amount of botanical herbs and spices while vodka is made mainly with… potatoes.

ingredients for Gin Penne Pasta
A few basics…

Starting the Sauce

While there is some simmering and stirring that goes on with this sauce, there’s really not much chopping.  Just dice up some onion and garlic and you’re ready to start the sauce.

chopped onions for Gin Penne Pasta
Just a few things to chop.

Add the olive oil to a medium pot with the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook this over medium heat until the onions and garlic start to soften and it smells very fragrant.

You don’t want the onions to brown at all.  They should just get soft over medium heat which will take around 5-6 minutes.

sauteed onions for Gin Penne Pasta
Try not to brown them.

Then add in your tomatoes and sugar.  The small amount of sugar balances some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

Any diced tomatoes will do the trick for this recipe.  I went with some fire-roasted Muir Glen tomatoes.

tomatoes for Gin Penne Pasta
Any kind of stewed tomato will do the trick.

Continue to cook this for a few minutes.

I wanted my sauce to be pretty smooth so I decided to blend it up with my stick blender.  You could also use a normal blender or just kind of mash the tomatoes as they cooked and go with a more rustic version of the sauce.

You definitely don’t need a blender to make this sauce, but if you can, I recommend taking it for a spin.

pureed sauce for Gin Penne Pasta
A quick spin.

Big Time Flavor

At this point our sauce for the Gin Penne Pasta is pretty standard, but it’s about to get a big bump in the flavor department.

Starting with the gin.  A whole cup.  It doesn’t really matter what brand of gin you use, but I wouldn’t use super-cheap stuff.

gin for Gin Penne Pasta
A whole cup!

Bring this sauce to a simmer and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly.  Your goal here is to cook off most of the alcohol and reduce the gin flavors.

You’ll know when it’s done because the sauce won’t smell intensely like alcohol!

As a final step stir in some cream which will mellow out some of the flavors and give the sauce a nice, rich texture.

cream added to sauce for Gin Penne Pasta
Mellows it a bit.

Any time I’m trying to make a really good tomato-based pasta sauce, there are two ingredients that I almost always include:  Real Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.

flavors for Gin Penne Pasta
Must have flavors.

Add a good amount of these to the sauce and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

I recommend finishing the sauce and then just keeping it warm while you work on the pasta.

This was my finished sauce for Gin Penne Pasta!

sauce for Gin Penne Pasta recipe
Done deal!

Finishing the Gin Penne Pasta

For the pasta itself, just cook it according to the package.  While I guess you could use any pasta, I think penne works perfectly for this dish.

Whatever you do, don’t overcook the pasta.  Soggy pasta is pretty much the worst.

pasta for Gin Penne Pasta
Steaming hot.

As soon as the pasta is drained, toss it into the sauce (or toss the sauce into your pasta depending on your pot size).

Stir it all together.  Even though it will look like a lot of sauce, as you stir in the pasta, all that sauce will get trapped in the penne pasta and you’ll be all set.

mixed up - Gin Penne Pasta
These guys will soak up a lot of sauce.

I like to serve pasta dishes like this Gin Penne Pasta family style which basically means I just pile it in a huge bowl and add some basil and cheese to the top.

Gin Penne Pasta recipe from Macheesmo
I like to serve it family style.

Surprisingly, even with a cup of gin in this sauce, the flavor is pretty subtle.  All of those gin botanicals, most importantly juniper, give the sauce this really complex flavor and fragrance.

Gin Penne Pasta is one of those dishes that if you were to eat it without knowing what was in it, you wouldn’t be able to put your finger on it, but once you know it’s gin, then it makes sense.

Let it be known:  When it comes to pasta sauces, gin is the new vodka.

36 Responses to “Gin Penne Pasta” Leave a comment

  1. WooHoo! Sounds yummy. Nice to see one of my favorite distillers represented in the ingredients pic. Gonna try this soon. Hopefully I won’t turn it into one of those spoof recipes (chop the onions, taste the gin…). LOL

  2. “It was the sexist thing you could do to pasta.”

    Sorry, that made me laugh. Clearly it’s been a slow morning around here.

    That looks yummy and something I need to try. This may be a dumb question, but I’m only asking because that’s a LOT of gin…would enough of the booze burn off that I could give this to my kids?

    1. I think the answer is yes. There is probably still some residual alcohol, but not much. I ate a lot of it and didn’t get drunk… :)

      Basically, just cook the sauce until you can’t smell or taste alcohol… it burns off pretty quickly and is very obvious when most of it has burned off.

  3. Im totally with you on the vodka sauce comments. Save money and just add cream to a simple tomato sauce and people will think it’s vodka sauce because you cant taste vodka at all. Whats next? tequilla… or burbon?

    1. I thought about bourbon but was worried it would be too strong… after seeing how subtle the gin came out though, I think I might give it a shot.

  4. As a lover of gin I definitely need to try this, it sounds fantastic. As for bourbon, I’ve found that even after cooking it still has quite a strong flavor. If you use it I also wouldn’t add any sugar at first since bourbon is pretty sweet. Man, now I want bourbon glazed … something. Anything! Heh.

  5. This sounds really yummy. I’ve never bought (or drank) gin before though, so how do I tell a good quality gin? Is it strictly based on price? How expensive should I be planning to go?

    1. Nah.. it’s like any liquor… it’s not necessarily price dependent. I wouldn’t use the nicest stuff actually (bombay sapphire or hendricks)… I’d go middle of the road… something like bombay, beefeaters, etc. In the 20 range should get you something decent for cooking.

      1. Bombay Sapphire is a gin specifically distilled for and marketed to Vodka drinks. It has less flavor than regular Gin. I would recommend Gordon’s or Beefeater for this recipe.

      2. Disagree that Bombay Sapphire is significantly less flavorful than Beefeater; either would be good for this I think.

  6. hi there! recently discovered your blog (thanks to pinterest and your famous muffin tin breakfast sandwiches) and i’m so glad i did! i’ve been gaining some macheesmo lately and i am really excited to try a bunch of your recipes! one question though…i try to be healthy and for the most part i do a great job…i love vegetables as much as i love dessert so that works out pretty well. only, i know regular pasta is not great for you and i’ve tried to enjoy whole wheat pasta…but i really just hate it. any tips on how to make it taste good? it looks like you used regular penne for this dish but you seem to be into healthy eating as well. thanks!

  7. This is pretty great recipe, I really liked the juniper flavour. thanks Nick!

    ps @francesca try Catelli Smart pasta, it tastes exactly like regular pasta but has as much fiber as whole wheat pasta plus protein, a much healthier option.

  8. Interesting, I have cooked with vodka but not thought of using gin. Does it not give a bitter flavour (an aquired taste in G NT) or does this mellow some when cooked and alcohol burns off? I am definatly going to experiment with this in cooking.


  9. do you see any problem with using 1/2 cup gin (that’s all I got) and maybe splash of vodka to subsidize?

  10. This. was. delicious.

    As a newbie cook, I half-felt like I wasn’t doing the sauce quite right, but it turned out amazing! Two of us (mostly me) ate nearly all pasta, with only a small bit of leftovers for lunch. Will be making again (and again and again.)

  11. I have now made this four times so I figure it’s time to write it down in my recipe book, delete the bookmark off my browser, and make this a staple in my meal planning. It’s delicious! Thanks for this recipe!

  12. I love vodka sauce, and my boyfriend loves gin and tonics, so I made this dish the other night. We used decent gin, but not excellent. One cup definitely seemed like a lot, and I actually simmered it for more like 30-40 minutes because I was convinced I could still taste the alcohol. My boyfriend didn’t really taste it, but I definitely thought the gin gave it a very unique flavor. We both agreed it was good, but I might try using slightly less gin next time!

  13. This skeert me. Gin? I don’t own a bottle of gin. I’m not a fan of gin. But. I’m going to try this. I’ll check back and let ya know.

  14. I made this and it was delicious! I wanted vodka sauce but was loath to have a bottle of vodka in my house, so this was perfect! Thank you!

  15. I made this as a starter for a dinner party yesterday, it was stunning. I had more red pepper flakes to give it more of a kick and left out the salt but otherwise followed the recipe as shown above. All my guests were impressed. I’ll be making this again. Thanks so much for this unusual recipe

  16. perhaps I’m wrong (I probably am!) but according to that photograph, aren’t you measuring the gin in a dry ingredient measuring cup?

    1. A cup is a cup… As far as I know there is no difference between dry and wet measuring cups that would affect measuring a liquid. If you want to get very specific, you should be weighing your ingredients anyway which is definitely not necessary for this recipe. Good luck!

  17. I’m curious to try this, but I’d like to suss out some substitutions so it will be palatable for those who canno r consume liquid dairy & added sugars. Perhaps substituting honey for the sugar would work, or maybe slow cooking the tomatoes? And would full-fat coconut milk work instead of dairy?

    1. Hey Dan, I think all of your suggestions would work just fine! If you give it a shot, report back and let me know how they tasted. Good luck!

    1. Hey Carrie! Thanks for the link. I haven’t seen that study before. I guess you can simmer it longer or reduce the gin in the recipe if it concerns you. Personally, I’ve never noticed that it has much alcohol flavor left after it simmers, but that’s just my experience.

  18. I just made this recipe, using Tanqueray dry London gin.
    I found the taste very almost acidic. I am not a gin drinker. Should I have used a different but very good gin!

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