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Pasta alla Vodka

Yep, it's a thing. Not only is it a thing - but it's a delicious thing at that. Just like wine helps to deepen and enrich a bolognese sauce, vodka used in this tomato sauce helps to cut through the bitterness and enhance the natural sweetness of tomatoes. The majority of alcohol is burned off during the cooking process but balanced with the chilli, it not only creates a more intense flavour but silky smooth sauce that clings to each and every pasta tube.

* This photo was captured and edited using an iPhone. I uploaded a Masterclass video with a step-by-step live-time editing session of this photo. Check it out if you're looking to improve your iPhone food photography.

Total time to make : 30 minutes Time to prep : 10 minutes

Servings : 4


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, finely diced or minced

1 tsp chilli flakes (2 tsp if you like it spicy)

130g tomato purée

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

270ml double cream

60ml vodka

Rigatoni pasta (500g if fresh, about 350g if dried)

80g parmesan cheese, finely grated

Salt and pepper, to season

Fresh basil, to serve


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add in the onion and a good pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and chilli flakes, cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the tomato purée and mix together, then tip in the can of chopped tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.

  2. Remove the sauce from the heat and then pour in the double cream. Stir through until combined. At this stage, you can bring a large saucepan of water to the boil for the pasta whilst the sauce slightly cools.

  3. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions suggest. Drain, reserving about 4 tbsp of starchy pasta water and set to one side.

  4. Pour the sauce into a blender* and blitz until smooth and vibrant in colour. Pour this smooth sauce back into the large heavy-based saucepan (I don't bother to wash the pan in-between, a few chunks of onion in the sauce is fine!) and bring to a gentle simmer. Pour in the vodka and extra pasta water, stir through and cook for a further 3 - 4 minutes. Tip in the drained pasta and mix through well.

  5. Taste for seasoning (tomato dishes often need a pinch more salt) and serve with freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil.

Nutritional Information

(per serve)

740 calories

19g protein, 65g carbs, 45g fat

Good to know:

  • Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

  • Vegetarian, to make this dairy free and vegan - use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan, or skip completely.

  • The blender is optional but does make a big difference to not only the texture but colour of the sauce. I used a regular NutriBullet, you can also use a stick blender. Please make sure you allow the sauce to cool a little (no piping hot liquid in a blender!) and only fill half full, even if this means doing it in batches. Hot liquids expand and can explode, so please be careful. I blitz in 5 second increments and it's usually smooth within a minute.

  • Starchy pasta water helps to make the sauce even more silky and smooth - use this tip with any pasta dish!

  • If you're sober or making this for the family, don't worry - the vodka's alcohol content is burned off during the cooking process but you can of course completely skip adding the vodka, it will still taste delicious.


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