I’ve learned over the years that the secret to a really great pasta dish is to use only the best ingredients possible. Since pasta sauces usually rely on only a few ingredients, kicking up the quality of those ingredients makes a huge difference in the finished dish. So, I’d recommend, if you can, using San Marzano canned tomatoes, fresh basil and freshly grated Parm Reggiano.
As for that cream, yes, it is a bit indulgent, but it really is what takes this dish from a simple tomato garlic basil sauce to something sublime and of course, it thickens the sauce to a perfect pasta-sticking level. I often recommend replacing cream with lower-fat alternatives but in this case, I’d use the heavy cream. Use a bit less if you’d like, but definitely use it.
Pasta with Vodka Sauce
Summary: This classic Italian pasta sauce lends itself well to variations. I like to add a couple of slices of bacon sometimes (which I pre-cook in the pan a bit before adding the onions and garlic. Shrimp and scallops are also great with this sauce. Simply pre-saute, set aside and add to the finished sauce long enough to re-warm them.
- Vodka Sauce:
- Splash of olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1 28-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream (you could substitute half and half for a thinner, lighter sauce but I wouldn’t recommend milk here)
- 5 fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut on the diagonal (chiffonade)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh cracked pepper and salt
- Any dried pasta, cooked in salted water and drained or, if you have a pasta roller and would like to make your own pasta, the fresh pasta recipe I use is below.
- Parmesan shavings for garnish
- Fresh Pasta (if using):
- 400 grams Tipo 00 flour
- 4 large free-range or organic eggs
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the nions are translucent, but being careful not to burn the garlic. Pour in the vodka and cook for 2 minutes (most of the vodka will disappear). Add the canned tomatoes and stir, breaking up the whole tomatoes with the spoon.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
- After sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, stir in basil and Parmesan cheese. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the hot sauce into the cream to temper it, then slowly stir all the tempered cream into the tomato sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Stir to combine.
- Taste and seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese and additional crushed red peppers, if you like it hot.
Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 20 min | Total time: 30 min
Number of servings (yield): 4