Penne alla Vodka

Who is looking for comfort food right about now? Something in a bowl, something easy to curl up on the couch with, something that isn’t complicated but yields the most delicious results… listen, I hear you. Last year I shared two of my all-time favourites; the BEST Bolognese and Creamy Butter Chicken. Thiiiis year, my friends, we’re leveling up.

The first time I had tried making a vodka sauce, I was with my bestie and we had our own little Italian dinner party. It was the first time we cooked together and it was the mooost fun. We followed a Basically BA recipe because it’s a very simple recipe and it shines on it’s own. The only modification I’ve made is the elimination of onions; with such a smooth sauce, I wanted a bite that only focused on the flavour and not so much the texture of anything besides the penne.


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (156ml) of tomato paste, double concentrated if you can find it!
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Penne pasta, about 1lb + pasta water (NECESSARY)
  • 2oz of vodka
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade style for garnish

Start by heating a large pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat and prepare a pot to boil your pasta water. Add the garlic and red chilli flakes and saute until fragrant. Next, add the tomato paste to the pan and cook until it turns a rich deep red colour and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan slightly.

So why are we using tomato paste in this recipe as opposed to another tomato product? 1. it’s going to create a beautiful ruby red sauce 2. tomato paste is obviously more concentrated and is able to create that instant flavour bomb that normally would take a few hours to achieve if using a more fluid-tomato product, such as strained tomatoes.

Next, add the vodka to the pan to deglaze the brown reddish bits that have probably stuck to the bottom. The use of vodka in this recipe adds an element of pepperyness, similar to eating arugula. Once the contents in the pan have become slightly more loose, add the heavy cream in a steady stream while you continue to stir.

Your sauce will maintain a vibrant colour – and white blending into red? Magical! Allow the sauce to come to a boil and then lower your heat and stir every once in a while. Once your sauce becomes thick and can coat the back of a spoon easily, it’s ready.

TIP: If your pasta isn’t done yet, take the sauce off the heat or keep on low low low — you don’t want to add the warm pasta to a cold sauce.

Once your pasta water is boiling, remember to salt your water like the sea and drop your pasta. Cook it a minute less to what you normally would (al dente stage) and remember to save at least a cup of the starchy pasta water before draining. This will be the key to that silky sauce we all know and desire when it comes to pasta.

Once your pasta is ready, add it to the sauce, as well as about half of the parmesan cheese. Turn off the heat and stir everything together and then look at the thickness of the sauce — it needs some liquid right? Queue the starchy pasta water! Add about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating it fully before adding more. Add the rest of your parmesan cheese and do one more sauce check – that pasta water should be helping your sauce become glossy AF.

Serve with a little more grated parm and some fresh basil on top and dig in guys!

Peace and good eats, as always,

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