Creamy Pasta alla Vodka Recipe
Pasta alla Vodka – perfectly cooked al dente pasta cooked in a creamy and vibrant tomato and vodka infused sauce that’s seasoned with fresh herbs and parmesan. Talk about delicious dinner recipe!
Pasta alla vodka is one of my go-to easy weeknight meals. It takes 20 minutes start to finish and only requires a few ingredients and pantry staples. Vodka sauce is honestly one of my favorite sauces ever and after making this recipe, you’ll see why!
What is Pasta ‘alla Vodka’?
Pasta alla Vodka is a classic Italian-American recipe that you can perfect at home with just a few easy steps!
So what does adding vodka do to the sauce? All the alcohol is cooked off, but the vodka boosts and intensifies the flavors of the tomatoes during cooking. Vodka also emulsifies the molecules of fat and water and tomato to make a perfectly luscious sauce. This vodka sauce is vibrant and rich with a kick from the Calabrian chilies.
How to make Pasta alla Vodka
This recipe couldn’t be easier to throw together on a busy weeknight! It’s easy to customize to your tastes with what you have on-hand.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Tomato paste. Opt for a high-quality tomato paste. Your sauce only tastes as good as what you put in it!
- Shallots. I love shallots for a subtle onion flavor with small pieces that melt into the sauce.
- Garlic. It’s not a great pasta sauce without garlic!
- Calabrian chili. Calabrian chile is my secret ingredient! You can find Calabrian chile paste at Trader Joe’s or on Amazon.
- Vodka. You could omit the vodka if needed, but it really brightens the sauce.
- Pasta Water. Adding pasta water to the sauce helps thicken it and helps the sauce cling to the pasta.
- Mascarpone. Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese and it makes this sauce extra luscious.
- Heavy cream. You could use all mascarpone if you wanted, but I love the combo of both!
- Butter and Olive Oil. I always saute my shallots and garlic in a mix of butter and olive oil and add an extra pat of butter to the sauce at the end.
- Pasta. I found this amazing ‘Calamarata’ pasta which is supposed to resemble rings of calamari and I’m obsessed! It’s got amazing texture.
- Boil your pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. This is usually about 1-2 minutes shy of the package instructions–the pasta should still have some toothiness to it.
- Reserve some pasta water. Before draining your pasta, reserve about a cup of pasta water–this is liquid gold in cooking!
- Saute shallots and garlic. Heat a mixture of butter and olive oil in a skillet and add your shallots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the Calabrian chili paste and cook for another minute.
- Cook the tomato paste. The key to a really vibrant and rich sauce is to cook the tomato paste for at least 4-5 minutes, until it’s deep red in color.
- Add the vodka. Add the vodka to the tomato paste and bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom.
- Finish the sauce. Once the vodka has reduced, add the pasta, pasta water, cream, butter, and mascarpone to the skillet. Toss everything together and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
Ways to Customize Pasta alla Vodka
This recipe really is just a base that can be expanded on to accommodate whatever you have on hand! Here are some ways to customize this pasta recipe to your tastes.
Add some protein. I love the flavor that Italian sausage adds, but you can easily swap in ground beef, turkey, chicken, or even MEATBALLS (I always have a freezer stash!). If you’re vegetarian, try some hearty mushrooms or even chickpeas!
Bulk up the veggies. Do you have some leftover veggies that you need to use? This pasta is the perfect way to use them up! This recipe would be great with the addition of spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, or bell peppers!
Swap the pasta. Use whatever you have on hand like penne, rigatoni, paccheri, or even long noodles like pappardelle or spaghetti.
Freezing Pasta alla Vodka
Pasta alla vodka can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Or it will keep in the fridge for about 3 – 4 days.
To defrost: Transfer from the freezer to the refrigerator and defrost overnight. Warm in a skillet with a bit of extra water or cream.
Other Italian-Inspired Recipes to Try Now
This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.
Creamy Pasta alla Vodka
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 2 small shallots finely minced
- 3 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste
- 8 oz high-quality tomato paste
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1 1/4 cup pasta water
- 4 oz mascarpone
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 10 oz. high-quality dried pasta
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente, usually 1-2 minutes shy of package instructions. Reserve pasta water before draining the pasta.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened. Add the Calabrian chili paste and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.
- Once your chili paste is fragrant, add the tomato paste and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until dark in color. Add the vodka and bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet.
- After the vodka has simmered for a couple of minutes (make sure it doesn’t smell boozy anymore), add the pasta, pasta water, mascarpone, heavy cream, and reserved butter to the skillet. Stir really well and bring to a simmer. Once the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce and it’s nice and thick, season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide into bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil.