Millennial Grocery Guide

Penne alla Vodka Recipe


How this guide works: Ingredients are broken down into approximate location in the grocery store, by order that you'd usually purchase them (start in deli, then head over to dry goods, and then frozen section). There is also a cost of ingredients scale ranging from $ (very cheap) to $$$$ (extremely expensive - I'm not sure any of my recipes even have an ingredient like this yet). 

About Millennial Staples: These are items you should always keep stocked in your fridge, freezer, or pantry. It will make throwing together a quick dinner easy and simplify grocery shopping. It allows you to purchase food on sale, and all these items are extremely unlikely to go bad before you use them!

From Your Pantry

  • Splash of olive oil

  • Salt

  • Pepper

From your home bar (or the liquor store)

  • 1/4 cup vodka $-$$$ Millennial Bar Staple Vodka is obviously on our bar basics list, and it comes in handy for this recipe. We drink Tito's, so I used that for this recipe. If I'm cooking a bigger batch, I'll probably buy a less expensive brand like Smirnoff - it really doesn't matter. I wouldn't get the cheapest cheap stuff because that is just too reminiscent of college and we are trying to be beyond that, people.


  • 1/2 yellow onion $$ Millennial Pantry Staple I feel like every recipe I make has yellow onion in it, so save other half in a plastic bag in the fridge for another meal later in the week!
  • Parsley $ optional If you want to top your pasta with some chopped up flat-leaf parsley, go for it. It's definitely not necessary given the cheesy, creamy, salty goodness of the sauce, but it looks nice.


  • Parmesan cheese $$ Millennial Fridge Staple I thing it's worth splurging on a real parmigiano reggiano cheese, found at the cheese display often near the deli counter. You can really tatse the difference, and when you're doing a simple pasta and sauce meal, every ingredient counts. With my FoodSaver, or even just wrapped well in the fridge, it is not hard to use this before it goes bad since it lasts a long time and goes on so many dishes. I always have a block in my fridge. Substitute: any cheese you like, or a less expensive option like Kraft in the shaker container or pre-shredded cheese.
  • 1/4 lb. proscuitto $$ Even though proscuitto is a higher-end item, what's nice is you can get it at the deli and get exactly the amount you need. You can either get domestic or imported proscuitto - domestic is cheaper, and will definitely work in this sauce since it's being crisped up and added to tomatoes and cream anyways!

Dry Goods

  • 1/2 box penne pasta $ Millennial Pantry Staple Substitute: Any other pasta will work fine. I like that the penne ridges hold the sauce well, but it really all tastes the same! Feel free to get creative here with pastas, like gluten-free, high protein, or whatever suites your tastes.

  • 1-15 oz. can of plain tomato sauce $ I'm all for substitutions, and I LOVE Rao's pasta sauce (see why here) Like this!, but in this case, you actually want a plain can of tomato sauce because you don't want any other flavors like garlic or basil that are often in jarred sauces. This will be located where the diced tomatoes or tomato paste is. Grab the 15 oz. can.


  • 1/2 cup heavy cream $$ Heavy cream makes everything better. It gives the vodka sauce that pretty pink color, too. Substitute: Milk, half and half, light cream, whatever. Just know that it will change the consistency of the sauce depending on what you use. The closest substitution to heavy cream if you're trying to be a bit healthier would be light cream.