Pasta alla Vodka is a wonderful creamy tomato dish spiked with vodka. It's deceptively easy and only made with a few ingredients but I promise if you make this once, you'll make it again it is THAT delicious! If you're looking for a wonderful pasta that can do as both a quick weeknight dinner or something delicious enough to serve to guests then look no further than this pasta alla vodka! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader.
Pasta alla vodka is a tomato and cream based sauce with a short tubular pasta. Adding vodka to the sauce imparts a peppery flavour to the sauce and vodka has the added benefit of letting the tomatoes and cream emulsify and not separate due to the acidity of the tomatoes. The sauce has an orange hue as the cream transforms the red into orange and it is SO delicious and made using simple easy to find ingredients (oh and it's vegetarian too!).
Pasta alla vodka is a bit of a retro dish that has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the last few years. My Italian friend Monica who is a chef and my resident expert on Italian food explained that originally it was popular in the 1980's and 1990's and is a dish commonly associated with Italian American cuisine. She also said that it was a restaurant dish, not something that you commonly cooked at home.
In my efforts to make the very best Pasta alla Vodka I made several batches to arrive at this recipe and this one has the best flavour and it also reheats well. Some recipes just call for tomato paste while some call for just tinned tomatoes. I found the best result came from a mixture of tomato paste and a good quality arrabbiata sauce or finely diced tinned tomatoes. Obviously using a good quality arrabbiata sauce will give you that extra edge of flavour over tinned tomatoes but the tinned tomato version is also absolutely delicious.
I found that when I made this with just tomato paste, the pasta would soak up the sauce in time which is fine when you are eating it straight away but if you're making some to pack up or freeze or eat at a later time (which we did as I did so much testing) that the combination of the sauce below and the quantity of pasta made for one that remained saucy and delicious even over the next day or two!
The Key To An AMAZING Pasta alla Vodka
1 - You can use your favourite pasta although penne or rigatoni is most commonly used. I love rigatoni for pasta alla vodka because the sauce gets inside the tubes.
2 - Can you use other types of alcohol apart from vodka? YES! I tried this with tequila and it worked really well with it too.
3 - Is it safe for kids to eat? I add in the alcohol with the tomato sauce and paste and it cooks for 7 minutes or so so the alcohol is cooked off so it should be safe for kids as long as you cook it for that time.
4 - I like to dice the onion up very finely so that it really melts into the sauce.
5 - The pasta is best when boiled until al dente as it gets a minute or two of "bathing" in the sauce too.
6 - You can use less cream or even halve it if you want but don't cut it out completely.
7 - This is delicious with guanciale or pancetta added to it too but by no means do you have to add it because it's delicious as is.
I served up this Pasta alla Vodka recently at a dinner party with Miss America and Queen Viv. I usually don't serve up pasta at dinner parties because it means that I have to stay in the kitchen cooking while I like being with everyone. But I made the sauce up to step 3 of the recipe below. All I had to do was boil the pasta and finish off the sauce for a couple of minutes.
Truthfully I'm getting a bit tired of having so many dinner parties because it's every weekend and I need to cook up so much but it's nice to have everyone over to our new place and I think they are curious to see it. Pasta alla vodka fitted the easy requirements and I also made up a warm lamb shoulder salad, some home made focaccia and a salad to go with it and cake to finish. I was exhausted after this and I swore to Mr NQN that we were hitting pause on the dinner parties. Once a month or so is nice but once a week is too much for me.
When they came over we started off in the living room having drinks. It's one of my favourite rooms in the house. We had the walls painted matte black and the architraves and ceiling gloss white and it came up beautifully. It has a cosy, wintry, library vibe with the fireplace and bookshelves. And sitting pride of place is a bit of crafting I did. Yes Dear Reader, I did a bit of low level crafting!
The bar cart before
A few weeks ago my friend Denise offered me her black metal bar cart. It was the perfect size for our lounge room but I wanted to give it a brass look. I went off to Bunnings where I was going to purchase some brass spray paint. I've never spray painted anything in my life and the spray paint is behind lock and key because kids buy it to graffiti.
"Which one do you want?" asked the guy that was helped me.
I needed all the help I could get. "Whichever one is best for a novice?" I answered. He bypassed the $7 cans and handed me the $30 can.
Our brass-look bar cart after!
We waited for a cool, not humid day where it wasn't raining and lay out some cardboard to protect the grass. I had prepped the metal by sanding it and removed the glass and plugs and covered the wheels. I started off doing the underside so it would be inconspicuous if I screwed it up. I put on one coat and surveyed my handiwork and it didn't look half bad! I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the quality of the spray paint that went on nice and thick and even. When he saw how much fun I was having, Mr NQN came outside and finished it off. Now we both feel a bit of pride when we see our bar cart.
After drinks we moved to the dining room where I served up a platter of this rigatoni alla vodka along with the other dishes. Although there was a large platter of this it quickly got scooped up and Miss America in particular was a big fan of this.
"Now darling tell me what is in this sauce," Miss America said to me leaning over. He was grabbing pieces of rigatoni with his hands saying each piece would be his last. I explained that it was a simple dish made only of a few ingredients. And like spray painting a bar cart, it looks deceptively hard but is in fact very easy!
So tell me Dear Reader, how often do you have dinner parties? Are you good at crafts? Have you ever spray painted anything? And are you a fan of pasta alla vodka?
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Pasta Alla Vodka
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by 2 readers
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes concurrently
- 400g/14ozs. rigatoni or penne
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 30g/1oz/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2/3 cup/185g/6.5ozs. tomato paste
- 400g/14ozs tin finely chopped tomatoes or your favourite arrabbiata pasta sauce
- 6 tablespoons vodka or tequila
- 1 tablespoon red chilli flakes (optional but not really IYKWIM :) )
- 3/4 cup/185ml/6.5flozs. cream
- 1/2-1 cup pasta cooking water
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve
Step 1 - Put a large pot of water onto boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and cook the pasta until al dente
Ok y'all probably didn't need this pic
Step 2 - While it is cooking heat a large frypan on medium heat and add the butter and melt. Sauté the onions in the butter until soft and fragrant and then add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes or pasta sauce, alcohol and chilli flakes and bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes.
Adding the cream and pasta water
Transforming the sauce into orange
Step 3 - When the pasta is ready reserve some of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Add the cream to the sauce base and stir. Then add the pasta and some of the cooking water - I start with 1/4 cup and use around 1/2 cup total. Taste for seasoning adding more salt if needed and add more pasta water if you need to loosen the sauce. Spoon onto plates and grate cheese over the pasta and ground black pepper.