Pasta Alla Vodka! You probably know this dish as Penne alla vodka but this recipe can, in fact, be made with any shape of pasta. It’s absolutely delicious and comes together in no time at all. We hope you try it!
Pasta Alla Vodka is a very popular pasta dish made with vodka and, usually penne pasta, made with heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, onions, and sometimes adding sausage, pancetta or peas. Like many Italian recipes, there are varying theories about who invented penne alla vodka. The most common belief, in Italy, is that it was created in the mid-70s in a restaurant in Bologna, Italy, called ‘Dante’. Others credit Luigi Franzese, a New York City chef, with the invention of a dish called Penne alla Russa, named for for the Russian influence the vodka brings to the sauce. You can read more here, or google it and do some research yourself. It’s fascinating to read and discover the origins of certain dishes and food.
The recipe became very popular in Italy and in the United States around the 1980s and I’m sure by now you’ve tasted or have seen a recipe floating around the internet.
Pasta Alla Vodka using Girelle Pasta
I picked up this pasta from my local grocery store yesterday. It’s Valentine’s day so I wanted to use a fun shaped pasta. Girelle pasta was perfect because it’s cut to hold more sauce. You can really use any pasta you like. A lot of people obviously use penne and rigatoni but if you can find it, I highly recommend trying girelle pasta! It’s so good!
To Use or Not to Use Vodka
There are a lot of recipes that don’t even use vodka for vodka sauce. Some people say it’s not needed but I love using it. But, if I don’t have any at home, I just use more pasta water.
Vodka adds depth to a sauce both by pulling out additional flavor and concentrating others without adding a flavor of its own. However, vodka does not need to be in vodka sauce; a simple replacement is some pasta water, or fresh water and a squeeze of lemon; I haven’t tried this but will next time. Serious Eats wrote this post that’s worth reading if you are interested.
This was perfect for our Valentine’s Day dinner. So easy to make! Hope you try this Pasta Alla Vodka!!
Pasta Alla Vodka
- Potato masher optional
- kosher salt
- 1 lb. Girelle pasta or any tubed pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 (28 oz.) can San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes plus sauce
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup jarred marinara sauce
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish; optional
- fresh parsley or basil for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions; until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, for 4 to 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and toss for about a minute or two. Pour in the entire can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes and the jarred marinara sauce (start with 1/4 cup and add more if needed) and, using a potato masher (or back of a wooden spoon) carefully crush the peeled tomatoes and the mix everything together. Sprinkle in the crushed red pepper flakes and the salt and add the vodka and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add in the heavy cream and some pasta water (I start with just a couple of tablespoons), stirring to combine. Add in the cooked pasta and toss together until all of the pasta is nicely coated with the vodka sauce. Let everything cook through for another minute or two. Serve and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and parsley, or torn basil leaves. Enjoy!
Other Pasta Alla Vodka recipes to try: NY Times Cooking adds diced pancetta, Delish.com and Food Network
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