Friday, May 24 2024

The beloved dish of the 1980s, pasta alla vodka, has roots that weave between the kitschy and the authentic, according to accounts by Russell Norman and Nigella Lawson.

The recipe’s origins are debated, between Italy and the United States.


The sauce, fundamental to this preparation, begins with a buttery base of onion, softened without roasting, which combines perfectly with the cream element, typical of the 1980s.

The addition of garlic, chili and tomato sauce creates a combination of flavors that oscillate between acidity, sweetness and a touch of spiciness.

Recipes vary on the use of peeled and pureed, but the combination of both provides a layered and nuanced sauce.

The addition of vodka is a debated move: some suggest incorporating it at the beginning, while others prefer to stir it in at the end.

The choice of timing and amount of vodka affects the alcoholic character of the dish.

The creamy consistency of the sauce is achieved by a generous portion of cream.

Some recipes include grated Parmigiano cheese, while others recommend adding it only at the end to preserve the main flavors of vodka and tomatoes.

Plain penne-so much neglected by Italian consumers except for a core of “resistant”-is considered more authentic, but the choice of pasta is subjective.

Rigatoni or fusilli can be used as variations.

Pasta alla vodka is a dish that combines tradition and retro flavor.





Preparation 10 min

Cooking 25 min



  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 14 oz of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1//2 cup of tomato puree
  • 14 oz of pasta (penne, rigatoni)
  • 7 tbsp of heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp of vodka
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
  • parsley to taste (optional)



Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, then gently sauté the onion with a pinch of salt, stirring regularly to make sure it does not blacken, until soft and golden brown.

Meanwhile, drain the date tomatoes, saving the juice for another purpose (such as a bloody mary), and boil a large pot of water.

Stir the garlic and chili pepper into the onion, sauté for another couple of minutes, then incorporate the tomato puree, followed by the drained tomatoes.

Mash gently with a spoon, then simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened.

While it is reducing, salt the boiling water, then cook the pasta until it is slightly under how you like it.

When the pasta is almost ready, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until pureed, then add the cream and vodka and heat through.

Taste and season if necessary.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of its cooking water, then toss it with the sauce, adding a little of the water set aside if necessary to dissolve and emulsify it.

Divide into bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and parsley (optional)

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