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The Legendary Vodka Pasta 2007/03/29

Posted by Mummy Ruth in Cooking.

This unusual but authentically Italian recipe is said to have originated as ‘Penne alla Bettola’ from ‘Alla Vecchia Bettolla‘ a popular trattoria on Via Luigi Ariosto, Florence, Tuscany. I found it in Patricia Wells’s book ‘Trattoria‘ (Kyle Cathie, 1993) headed ‘Penne with Vodka and Spicy Tomato-Cream Sauce’.

According to my pencilled scribbles in the recipe book’s margin, I made it for the first time for David and I on 28th October 2005, and it was spicy but delicious and we washed it down with a bottle of Tuscan Red (a Castelliani 2002 — apparently).

Cooking Time: 25-30 mins
Serves: 3-4


  • Two cooking hobs
  • Two Wooden Stirring Spoons
  • Can opener
  • Scissors
  • Risotto Pan (250mm diam x 50mm deep pan) with lid
  • Large electric kettle/ large pasta pot
  • Pasta drainer

Shopping List:

  • 400g (1 can) tomatoes [chopped];
  • 30g (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil;
  • 25g Italian tubular pasta [dried];
  • 20g sea salt;
  • 15g fresh flat-leaf parsely leaves [snipped with scissors];
  • 5g (two) garlic cloves [fresh and plump];
  • 2g crushed red peppers (hot red pepper flakes) or to taste;
  • 3 litres water;
  • 125ml double cream;
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) Vodka.

To Make Vodka Pasta:

Take the large pot, put on a hob and start heating the 3 litres of fresh tap water for the pasta.

Into the cold risotto pan, put in the garlic, crushed red peppers, sea salt and the olive oil, and stir to coat everything in oil, then add a moderate heat on the second hob for about 2 minutes or so — until the garlic turns golden (throw away and start again if the garlic turns brown or burns; it will taste terrible)!

Open the tinned tomatoes and pour into the risotto pan, stir to blend everything and then simmer without a lid to thicken — this can take about 15 minutes, but the timing entirely depends on when the pasta is ready…

When the pot of water comes to a rolling boil, put in the salt then add the dried pasta tubes, and stir.

Keep stirring to stop the pasta sticking together, and keep checking to make sure the pasta is ‘al dente’ by tasting (not looking, timing or guessing).

When the pasta is ready, drain (but do not over-drain). Then add to the mix in the risotto pan, and toss until the pasta is covered with the thickened tomato sauce.

Add the vodka, toss, then add the double cream and toss it all together. Put the lid on the risotto pan, turn down the heat to low, and leave for a couple of minutes.

Remove lid, add the parsley, toss and serve.


[Picture of Wells’s Book Cover]Over the years since , I have made this dish with more or less spice, with spaghetti, and even with crème fraîche. Believe me, you cannot go wrong; it’s almost fool-proof — as long as the garlic is not bitter from over cooking at the start, it is easy to make, easy to eat, easy on the eye and easy on the washing-up.

I hope you enjoy this delicious and filling meal as much as we do; it is something of a legendary dish now!

I would also recommend Patricia Wells’s book ‘Trattoria‘ to anyone and everyone!


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