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Pasta alla Vodka is a creamy, tomato-based pasta that is SO delicious. It’s easy to throw together with minimal ingredients—the perfect weeknight dinner. This pasta dish is inspired by Carbone in New York City and Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles. Serve it with an Aperol Spritz and Fall Harvest Salad for the perfect dinner.
Penna alla Vodka/Pasta alla Vodka/Fussili alla Vodka…there are lots of names to this recipe and lots of renditions. The most popular version is this one: tomato paste, vodka and heavy cream are the main ingredients.
Ingredients You’ll Need for Pasta alla Vodka
- Tomato Paste – We’re going to be using an entire can which makes it easy!
- Vodka – This helps with the sauce and its texture. But feel free to leave it out if someone you know doesn’t drink.
- Pasta – I love a good noodle with texture and ridges for this pasta.
- Heavy Cream – This adds the perfect amount of creaminess.
- Parmesan – You can use pecorino romano too!
For the full list of ingredients, please refer to the recipe card.
Let’s Talk about Pasta Alla Vodka
It’s been particularly popular in quar because it’s easy, it uses tomato paste (a pantry staple) and Gigi Hadid made it on her IG, which lead to Zoomers thinking she invented it. Lol. She definitely did not, but neither did those restaurants mentioned at the beginning of the post.
Origins of this Pasta
There are times when it isn’t so easy but for this recipe, its origins are definitely in Italy. No surprise there. The recipe first popped up all throughout the 1970s with a few people attempting to take ownership. One writer said it’s from Bologna, Italy (sounds likely). Another writer from Cornell University said he invented (sounds unlikely). And the stories continue.
This all leads us to the very dead end conclusion that we have no idea who invented it but that it’s a delicious enough recipe that people want to stake claim. Understood.
Regardless, it definitely is the type of dish you think of when you imagine a red gingham table cloth in the Northeastern parts of the United States. I think of the movies, too. So, let’s make it.
How to Make Pasta alla Vodka
- Saute the minced onion and garlic with the olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Then, add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper flakes. You want to cook the tomato paste until it turns a very dark red color.
- Pour in the vodka and cook it for about a minute. You really want it to sizzle up and burn off.
- Next, add the heavy cream and stir it until smooth. Turn the sauce off. Now it’s time to cook the pasta!
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta when it’s boiling and cook it just shy of 1 minute until al dente. I like to do this so we can cook the rest of the pasta in the sauce.
- Then, scoop out about a cup of pasta water. Pour 1/2 cup of pasta water into the sauce, add the grated cheese and then taste it. Add more salt to your liking. I added a few more pinches of salt.
- Pour in the drained pasta and then the cold butter. Stir for 1 minute. This may seem like a long time but it really does help emulsify the sauce.
- Serve it up and garnish with more Parmesan-Reggiano and minced Italian parsley.
Use Bronze-Die Pasta! Bronze-die pasta is referring to the extruder used in the pasta-making process. Using a bronze extruder or mold means that the outside of the pasta is a rougher texture. This is better for the sauce to adhere to AND releases more starch in the water, resulting in a thicker more luscious sauce.
Time management. So much of making pasta is about time management. I wrote this recipe with that in mind. You make half of the sauce AND then boil the pasta. And then you work your way back to the sauce. Be sure to prep all of your ingredients beforehand since it goes very quickly once you begin.
Absolutely! If you’re serving this to someone who doesn’t drink or you don’t drink, then feel free to skip it. The vodka helps with the texture of the sauce; it cooks out so you won’t taste its flavor. But by all means, skip it. No biggie.
Yep! Anything from bucatini to spaghetti or another pasta shape will work.
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Pasta alla Vodka
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 ounces vodka
- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound pasta of choice, I like tubular pasta in this application
- 1/2-3/4 cup pasta water, reserved
- 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano, plus more as garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
- Minced Italian parsley, as garnish
- In a large saucepan, set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil. When warm, add the minced onion, garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the tomato paste, along with the red pepper flakes, and cook it until the tomato paste turns a really dark red color, about 3 minutes. Add the vodka and let it sizzle and allow the vodka to cook off a bit, about 1 minute.
- Pour in the heavy cream and mix it until smooth. Turn off the sauce. Now, we’re gonna boil the pasta!
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. You want the water as salty as the sea. Pour in the pasta and cook it until about 1 minute shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta.
- Turn the heat up on the sauce to medium. Pour in 1/2 cup pasta water, along with the grated Parmesan-Reggiano and give it a taste. Add salt to taste. I added a pinch or two. Pour in the pasta and then add in the cold butter. Mix it vigorously for 1 minute, until thick and luscious.
- Garnish with grated Parmesan-Reggiano and some minced Italian parsley.
- Use Bronze-Die Pasta! Bronze-die pasta is referring to the extruder used in the pasta-making process. Using a bronze extruder or mold means that the outside of the pasta is a rougher texture. This is better for the sauce to adhere to AND releases more starch in the water, resulting in a thicker more luscious sauce.
- Time management. So much of making pasta is about time management. I wrote this recipe with that in mind. You make half of the sauce AND then boil the pasta. And then you work your way back to the sauce. Be sure to prep all of your ingredients beforehand since it goes very quickly once you begin.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.