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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Pasta with Spicy Vodka sauce

Isabel, here's my version of this recipe- can you please send me yours?

There are many versions out there, but the one I favour the most is from the Half Baked Harvest blog, which I've further tweaked. It is super delicious: make it, and make it your own!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 to 1 fresh red chilli depending on how spicy you like it, chopped fine

  • 1 large onion, chopped fairly fine

  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

  • 350g good quality tomato passata (I use Mutti)

  • 3 generous tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup vodka

  • 150 ml fresh cream

  • 1 heaped tablespoons pesto or pistou

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • A handful of chopped fresh parsley for garnish

  • 1 packet (500g) rigatoni or penne pasta


  1. Heat a large pan of salted water, and when it starts to boil, add the packet of pasta and stir well to separate all the pieces.

  2. In a large pan (I use a wok: it works the best), heat the olive oil and brown the onion, chilli and garlic.

  3. Add the tomato paste, the passata and the vodka, stirring well.

  4. Bring to a bubble so as to burn off the alcohol, turn down the heat and add the pesto and cream, and stir well.

  5. Keep the sauce at a very low heat.

  6. Meanwhile, when the pasta is exactly al dente, scoop a cup of the pasta water and set aside.

  7. Drain the pasta in a colander, and then quickly add it into the creamy sauce cooking gently in the wok.

  8. Toss it all well and add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.

  9. If the mix seems too thick, add some pasta water, a little at a time until a nice luscious and creamy sauce coats the pasta.

  10. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

  11. Turn off the heat and give the pasta in the wok a final good toss.

  12. Serve immediately in bowls, top with the rest of the cheese and garnish with a handful of chopped parsley.


This is about the richest thing I cook with all that cream and cheese in it. The vodka however, burns off to lend this rich tomato sauce a lovely deep flavour, and essentially takes the edge off the richness.

The addition of pesto is chef Tieghan Gerard's brilliant idea which I really love, adding a really nice thickness to the sauce. As I make my own pistou (without cheese) and keep the grind fairly coarse, my addition of home made pistou gives this sauce a good chunkiness.

If you are using a store bought pesto with parmesan in it, you may want to reduce or even omit step 8, which is the addition of parmesan cheese to the sauce.

A salad of bitter greens to accompany the pasta further balances out the richness.

This is definitely a 'treat' meal- you'll feel very special/satisfied/pampered eating or serving this.

For my vegan daughter, I substituted the cream with store bought cashew cream, and the parmesan with a vegan shredded cheese. She was happy!


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