Pasta alla vodka is one of those creamy pasta dishes that will make you sit back and forget everything. This delicious sauce is made from tomatoes and cream, simmered with some vodka. Needless to say, this is an adults only pasta and kind of perfect for date night or even busy weeknight as it takes a mere 30 mins and is an easy one pot meal.
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
― Pablo Neruda.
Remember when I mentioned that poem by Auguries of Innocence I mentioned in my Gulab Jamun in Old Monk syrup post? If you know me at all, you know I am a romantic person. Not the candle lights and room filled with roses kind. I am more of the walk in the rain, hand in hand kind. The kind that thinks its romantic when we belt out our favorite tracks while driving, or when he comes in to the kitchen while I am finishing up dinner and helps set up the table. And when I read my book in bed, with him trying to peep into it every once in a while. For me romance is as simple as breathing..as simple as crossing the room and looking at each other. Its what is left after the initial heat and passion wears off. It is what makes a marriage.
Most marriages don’t suffer due to a lack of love. They get disappointing due to a lack of friendship. I couldn’t agree more! So anyways you must be thinking why am I babbling about love, romance and head in the clouds when I should be writing about pasta. Right? Well, be a little patient, I am getting to it. The reason I am rambling on about love and romance is coz this dish, this beautiful pasta alla vodka is marked with romance in our minds.
Eight years back when we started our relationship, this was one of the very first dishes I had made for P. Well my first pasta ever was a Pasta bechamel, but I am not really a big fan of the bechamel. BabyD would feel rather strongly about my statement especially since its her favorite kind! But this was almost like a pomodoro creme sauce, but with the additional deliciousness of vodka! Whats not to love!! I chanced upon this dish at Pioneer Woman’s who was the reigning food queen back then. It looked so darn delicious (to quote Ree) that I ended up imagining eating it and sighing over not having any vodka or cream or heck, even pasta at home! Next morning, while coming from work, I made a little detour. Needless to say, I spent over 30% of my salary on food stuff, reached home and promptly set about making our first perfect pot of pasta alla vodka. That night dinner was rather special, mostly coz it was a first for both of us and he loved it so much that I was over the moon! Soon, this became P’s go to pasta dish as much as mine is spaghetti aglio e olio. Its a weekly affair for us at home, an affair of the heart in all honesty coz lets face it, there is nothing quite like making someone’s favorite.
This pasta is so good you will want to have it daily, but please don’t (if you care about having a neck or waist anyways). I dont. And end up having this almost every week or so. Its a relatively simple dish that even beginners can make and essentially a one pot meal perfect for weeknights when you want something easy and quick on the dinner table. I went ahead and added some balsamic roasted zucchini and red bell pepper to it, but really the hero here is the sauce. Everything else is up to your discretion. People add bacon or sausage to this too, so choose your style and go with it. The sauce however needs to be made as per the recipe to make sure its perfect, and perfect it is!
Now the sauce is seriously so good I end up licking a spoon or two while making it, while serving it, or when I accidentally wander into the kitchen 😛 Its a basic tomato and cream sauce that almost everyone loves (and if you say you don’t, then lets not be friends, please. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life). Just kidding. But seriously, even if you don’t like the tomato cream sauces, you must try this one. You will be a convert. As much as I love the basic sauce, the vodka here is quite a pleasant change. Not as mellow as wine, the vodka brings an acidity and sharpness to the sauce. I can’t describe it better than Ree does.
“But when you use vodka, there’s a cleanness to it—a slight sharpness. Not a bitterness at all—in fact, I’m always surprised at how mild the final sauce really is, considering it has a cup of the sharp stuff in it. But it is…it’s mild. And each bite has a really clean finish, a perfect ending.” – ThePioneerWoman.
The traditional way is to use penne with this sauce, but really don’t let it stop you. If you don’t have penne in the pantry and you absolutely must have this right now (like me), go ahead and use whatever pasta you have handy. I used some good old spaghetti and look how delicious that turned out. Not a drop of sauce or a string of pasta left folks. THAT GOOD. The creaminess of the sauce is further enhanced by the addition of a cup of Parmesan, fragrant from some fresh basil and simmered till creamy and breath taking salmon color. Some people don’t add enough cream to the tomato base and that results in a red color that is not what this sauce should look like. Please put aside your diet woes for the night and indulge in this full fledged feast for your senses. After all, as Marco himself says “Its always the simplest things that taste the best”.
Make this soon. Promise.
PS: I recently saw Nigella Lawson make this same dish but in quite a distinctive manner. Instead of stirring the vodka into the sauce (which gives the sauce the time to imbibe the flavors of vodka, while simultaneously cooking down the alcohol in the vodka so that it doesn’t taste of too much alcohol), she went ahead and poured the vodka directly into the boiled pasta with a knob of butter. This creates a stronger vodka flavor if you want one. The one I make is a milder version but it works really well for our taste. If you want to follow Nigella’s awesome recipe you can find it here – penne alla vodka.
- Any Pasta of choice (penne, fusili,spaghetti) - handful per person
- Red bell pepper - 1, sliced thin and long
- Zucchini - ¼, sliced long and thin
- ½ Onion, Chopped Finely
- 7-8 cloves of Garlic, Chopped ( use less if you want, but nothing below 3)
- ½ to ¾ cup of Vodka (no need of using the best quality, regular ones will do).
- 1½ cup Tomato Puree
- 1 cup (200ml) fresh Cream (full fat)
- ¾ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh basil - 5 or 6 leaves, rolled up and cut into chiffonade.
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- ¼ teaspoon Salt or as per taste
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Some finely chopped parsely
- Some finely chopped basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Begin preparing the veggies while you boil the pasta as per the package directions. Always bring it out a couple of minutes before it says on the packet.
- Also, before draining, always ALWAYS save some of the pasta water to use later. No matter what kind of pasta you make, this is the standard method.
- put the pasta in only when the water is on a rolling boil. Add ample salt. NO OIL PLEASE!! If you add oil to the pasta, the sauce wont stick to it. and you really don't want that to happen.
- Once the pasta is al dente, reserve about a cup of water and drain it. Add a blob of butter or olive oil to the pasta to keep it from sticking. Set aside.
- Cut the veggies in to long thin slices. Add all the ingredients mentioned above in a ziplock bag and mix the veggies with it thoroughly. Simple heat a grill and grill them till cooked, but still crunchy (should have a bite to it). About 5-6 mins. It depends on the thickness of your cut of vegetable, so be your own judge. Set aside when done. While that is happening, I get started n my sauce.
- In a large pan, heat some olive oil and butter over medium heat. Oil is added to the butter to ensure the butter doesn't brown too quickly.
- once the butter is melted, add teh chopped garlic and stir around for a bit ( 20 secs). then add the chopped onion. Stir and allow to cook for 5 mins on low heat.
- Next pour in the vodka. Be careful as it flames up. Best not to have kids present nearby.
- Stir and cook for five minutes.
- Add in tomato puree and stir. Add a big pinch of black pepper, chillie flakes, salt , ½ tsp sugar, fresh basil and let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Keep stirring to make sure it doesnt stick.
- Add in cream on low heat (always or else it might split).
- Allow to simmer, be careful not to overheat. At this point add some of the reserved pasta water to reach a consistency you like. Shouldn't be gloopy or too thick. Also, taste the sauce and adjust!
- Now add the cooked pasta to the sauce, tossing to combine.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
- Serve hot with more grated parmesan and fresh bail over the top.
2. You can make the sauce ahead. It stores in the fridge easily and freezes for 3 days.
3. Toss the pasta in to the sauce and add the veggies into it before serving. the vegges also get some of the saucy deliciousness.
4. Remember not to serve this to kids!
Disclaimer: As mentioned in the post, this recipe is adapted from ThePioneerWoman who I totally and absolutely adore!