Pasta alla Vodka

Although Pasta alla Vodka is actually not an authentic Italian dish, it’s popular simply because it tastes so good. Vodka is a relatively flavorless addition to the sauce, but its alcohol content works to release extra flavor in the tomatoes. Combined with the sautéed pancetta, fresh basil and a touch of cream it produces a richly flavored red sauce with a smooth, light, creamy quality.

Pasta alla Vodka

Pasta alla Vodka

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

The addition of vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes in this robust pasta sauce made with sautéed pancetta, fresh basil and a touch of cream.


  • 12 ounces penne, rigatoni or ziti
  • 6 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28-ounce) chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating


  1. Place a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Sauté the pancetta in a large pan over medium-high heat until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan, then add the olive oil.
  3. Add the onion and continue cooking until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Bring to a slow simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in the vodka, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. While the sauce simmers, cook and drain the pasta according to the package directions.
  7. Add the cream and basil to the tomato sauce, then combine with the pasta. To serve, plate individual servings and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.