Pasta alla Vodka

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
February 10, 2021 | Updated on March 15, 2024

This homemade pasta alla vodka recipe is restaurant quality, with silky, rich tomato sauce enhanced by heavy cream, and a splash of vodka. Whip up this creamy pasta alla vodka for an easy weeknight dinner or date night option.

Ready to dig into more yummy pasta recipes? Check out my ‘Nduja Pasta, Creamy Gochujang Pasta, and Pasta al Limone.

pasta alla vodka

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You may have heard of pasta alla vodka, ordered it at your favorite Italian restaurant, or purchased a bottle of premade vodka sauce–but have you ever tried your hand at making it yourself? It’s one of those low-commitment, high-reward recipes.

This recipe is inspired by Jon and Vinny’s (Los Angeles) Fusilli alla Vodka. Velvety sauce clings to the surface of the perfectly cooked pasta, ensuring each bite is saucy and flavorful.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Tasty Comfort Food – The rich and creamy pasta is super saucy and thick, making it an exceptional dish to eat during the winter.
  • Easy Weeknight Meal – What’s great about this recipe is that it only takes 30 minutes from start to plate.
  • Restaurant-Quality – From the taste and presentation, you’d think this pasta alla vodka recipe was made by a 5-star chef even though it’s made from the comfort of your kitchen.

What is Pasta alla Vodka?

Pasta alla Vodka is a popular Italian-American pasta dish. It is vodka pasta, a tomato-based sauce enhanced with vodka and tossed with pasta (usually penne hence penne alla vodka pasta).

What is the point of Pasta alla Vodka?

The difference between pasta alla vodka and other tomato-based pasta recipes is, of course, the vodka. However, the pasta doesn’t taste like vodka. The alcoholic content evaporates but it enhances the overall flavor, texture, and aromatic quality of the dish.

Pasta alla Vodka History

The exact origins of this beloved dish are unknown. Some sources say Bologna, Italy while others suggest an American chef. However, we do know that pasta alla vodka emerged sometime between the 70s and 80s.

Tools You’ll Need

Ingredients You Will Need for Pasta Alla Vodka

This recipe is packed with complex flavor but its made with simple ingredients.

  • Olive oil – Use a high-quality oil.
  • Butter – This adds a smooth, buttery flavor.
  • Aromatics – Shallot and minced garlic are a mouthwatering foundation of flavor.
  • Double-concentrated tomato paste – Tomato paste is essential. Fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes just won’t do. The paste imparts a deep tomatoey flavor that’s fresh, subtly sweet, and fruity. It also adds a thick, velvety texture.
  • Red pepper flakes – Add for spicy pasta alla vodka.
  • Vodka – Think of it as an enhancer. The brightens the sauce, highlighting the ingredients for an even more flavorful dish. It also contributes to the creamy texture.
  • Heavy cream – For super creamy alla vodka sauce, use this.
  • Parmesan reggiano – Freshly grated cheese is best.
  • Dry pasta – Use your pasta of choice. Pictured is mafaldine pasta–which I used for its fun fork-twirl appeal and ability to capture the sauce incredibly well.
  • Kosher saltDon’t forget to add salt.
  • Pasta water – Reserve some of the water used to cook the pasta. This thickens the sauce if necessary.

How To Make Pasta alla Vodka

Build the flavor of your sauce by starting with a quick sauté, then gradually adding the ingredients.

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot + garlic and cook until softened, 6 minutes.
  2. Add butter, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Stir and press tomato paste into pan. Cook for 4 minutes or until tomato paste turns deep + rusty red in color and begins to caramelize. Add vodka and stir until liquid evaporates. Be sure to cook for at least 2 minutes to ensure alcohol cooks off.
  3. Turn heat to low and slowly add cream. Stir until sauce is smooth and creamy in texture. Remove skillet from heat.
  4. Using a large dutch oven, cook pasta according to package. Be sure to add salt to the water –salty as the sea, as they say.
  5. Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water and drain pasta into a colander.
  6. Return to skillet containing sauce and turn heat on low. Add ½ cup of pasta water and 2 ounces of parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese dissolves and water is fully incorporated into the sauce. Add pasta and stir to combine. Add more pasta water (if needed, I typically only add ½ cup).
  7. Divide pasta among bowls and then top with parmesan.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t use top-shelf vodka. A mid-level vodka brand will work just fine.
  • Do not swap the heavy cream for half and half or a milk alternative. You won’t reach the desired consistency and the sauce will likely separate.
  • Store leftover pasta alla vodka in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warmed through. Stir slowly and gently.

What to Serve with Pasta Alla Vodka

  • Salad Lighten things up with a simple garden salad.
  • Crusty Bread Make it a carb fest with garlic bread, garlic knots, or Garlic Confit Toast.
  • Veggies Serve with roasted or sautéed vegetables to make this a well balanced meal. Try adding asparagus, broccoli, or mushrooms.

Variations

  • Add Meat Add a pop of protein and make this dish even heartier by adding a pancetta, bacon, sausage, or chicken.
  • Herbs Top with basil.
  • Pasta alla Vodka without vodka Although vodka isn’t essential, it plays a key part in the flavor of this dish. However, you can simply omit it and follow the rest of the recipe if you don’t want to cook with alcohol. Alternatively, add lemon juice. It won’t taste exactly the same but does add some acidity that lightens the taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does pasta alla vodka have alcohol?

Pasta all vodka is made with alcohol. However, this dish is not alcoholic. The vodka is simmered long enough to cook out the alcohol so the whole family can enjoy it.

What is alla vodka sauce made of?

Alla vodka sauce is made with ingredients like tomatoes, heavy cream, vodka, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Can I freeze pasta alla vodka?

No. This dish contains dairy so it doesn’t freeze well.

What pasta goes best with alla vodka?

Common pastas used with this sauce include penne, fusilli, or rigatoni. However, any tubular or textured pasta is a great vessel for holding sauce.

What wine pairs well with pasta alla vodka?

If you’re looking to fancify this dish, pair it with a light or medium-bodied red wine. I’m a huge fan of natural red wines that have a slight chill to them – absolutely delish! If natural wines aren’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Chianti.

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pasta alla vodka

Pasta alla Vodka

This homemade pasta alla vodka recipe is restaurant quality, with silky, rich tomato sauce enhanced by heavy cream, and a splash of vodka. Whip up this creamy pasta alla vodka for an easy weeknight dinner or date night option.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • Large Skillet
  • Large dutch oven
  • Colander

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup shallot
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tube double-concentrated tomato paste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • ¾ cups heavy cream
  • 2½ ounces parmesan reggiano, freshly grated
  • 1 pound dry pasta of choice
  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup pasta water, reserved

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot + garlic and cook until softened, 6 minutes.
  • Add butter, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Stir and press tomato paste into pan. Cook for 4 minutes or until tomato paste turns deep + rusty red in color and begins to caramelize. Add vodka and stir until liquid evaporates. Be sure to cook for at least 2 minutes to ensure alcohol cooks off.
  • Turn heat to low and slowly add cream. Stir until sauce is smooth and creamy in texture. Remove skillet from heat.
  • Using a large dutch oven, cook pasta according to package. Be sure to add salt to the water –salty as the sea, as they say.
  • Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water and drain pasta into a colander.
  • Return to skillet containing sauce and turn heat on low. Add ½ cup of pasta water and 2 ounces of parmesan cheese. Still until cheese dissolves and water is fully incorporated into sauce. Add pasta and stir to combine. Add more pasta water (if needed, I typically only add ½ cup).
  • Divide pasta among bowls and top with parmesan.
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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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