After the home side had started brightly, Inter grew into the contest and edged in front thanks to Danilo D'Ambrosio's well-timed header in the 34th minute.
Simone Inzaghi's side made the most of their numerical advantage when Federico Dimarco put them 2-0 up in the 66th minute.
"For some years now we have been thinking as one group and it is thanks to the collective that we managed to win the Scudetto last season," D'Ambrosio told Sky Sport Italia.
"We have to think about ourselves, without relying on the results of others. We have players who can make a difference with single plays as happened with Sanchez's assist for my goal.
"The current ideas of the coach are interesting and I think we are on the right path."
Inter took their foot off the gas and cruised the final period of the match, earning their first victory in three league games to stay third in the standings on 21 points, seven behind leaders AC Milan. Empoli drop to 12th on 12 points.
In Serie A's late kickoffs, goals from Ibanez and captain Lorenzo Pellegrini helped AS Roma come from behind to win 2-1 at Cagliari to stay fourth in the table, while Spaniard Pedro's goal was enough for Lazio to climb above Fiorentina into sixth after beating them 1-0 in Rome.
With rivals AC Milan showing no sign of letting up following their ninth win from 10 league games this season against Torino on Tuesday, Inter could not afford a slip up at newly-promoted Empoli.
Visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was forced into a fine save early on, but moments after Alexis Sanchez, given a rare start, had missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock, the Chilean crossed for D'Ambrosio to head his first of the campaign.
Sanchez went close early in the second half with a header, before Ricci's red card effectively ended Empoli's hopes of taking anything from the contest.
Roberto Gagliardini headed against the post as Inter chased that second, before Dimarco made no mistake with his close-range header to make sure of the three points. (Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Pritha Sarkar)