This spicy vodka pasta will be your favorite easy weeknight dinner. Creamy, spicy, and delicious, it comes together so quick and packs HUGE flavor with few ingredients.
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This spicy vodka pasta has been trending since quarantine began, and I thought after almost a year stuck inside my house, “Why haven’t I tried this yet?!?!?” So here we are, my own version of the famous spicy vodka pasta. I’m honestly embarrassed that it took this long. I mean I love vodka sauce. It’s always been a favorite since I was a kid.
It’s not something that my mom ever made when I was growing up, so it felt extra special when we would go out to eat. Literally, ever time, without fail I would order the penne alla vodka. Now that I’ve found out how easy it is to make at home, I’ve moved on to ordering lobster ravioli anytime it’s available. Soon I’ll have to master that so I can move onto my next favorite Italian restaurant classic.
Spicy Vodka Pasta Ingredients
This spicy vodka pasta recipe couldn’t be easier. It only takes 7 ingredients, most of which I already had in our pantry. I think the only thing I needed to go out and buy was the shallot, which is not something I usually keep around the house (but…maybe I will now, so I can have this spicy vodka pasta ready whenever I don’t feel like spending hours in the kitchen making dinner.)
The only thing I will say is, it might be hard to find the fine ground red pepper flakes. And I say this because I had never seen or heard of it before, I just thought that red pepper flakes were the only option. But low and behold, when we ran out and tried to find more in our local grocery store, all we could find was fine ground.
BUT, I don’t think I will ever be going back to regular red pepper flakes after this. The flavor is just so much better, it really spreads throughout the dish AND no more little flakes caught in your month or between your teeth! But fear not if you can’t find any fine ground red pepper, you can use whatever you have! Or better yet, grind it up yourself using a mortar and pestle! I feel SUPER fancy whenever I use mine, like really chef-ing it up in the kitchen!
Shallots vs. Onions
Forgot your shallots when you went grocery shopping? Don’t worry we’ve all been there. Actually I’ve been there A LOT. Shallots are not something I buy often, and so therefore they end up being left at the store, and me shallotless. I always thought that shallots are totally interchangeable with yellow onions (which was always have A TON of) and while I wasn’t wrong, I also wasn’t totally right.
Shallots are in the same family as onions, but they are not the same. The shallot is like a refined, sweeter, cousin of the yellow onion. Yellow onions have a sharper and more potent flavor, they tend to take over a dish. While shallots are quieter and have a less harsh flavor. I’ll be honest with you, my choice to use shallots in this spicy vodka pasta recipe was PURELY based on the fact that I just thought shallots were fancier onions.
Again, I wasn’t wrong there…but not entirely right. It was only until after I made this did I think to actually look up shallots and see what the real differences were. So yes, while shallots and onions are in the same family, they are more like distant relatives. However, that does not mean they can’t be interchanged in recipes.
Using Onions Instead of Shallots
Yes, you can use onions in place of shallots, and vice versa. But as I’ve learned, you need to know your ratios. One small onion = three small shallots (so that that shallots can really deliver that oniony bite.) I only used one small shallot in this recipe, both because I didn’t want to over power the dish, and because when I went to grab my shallot from the onion drawer, it was juuuust starting to go bad. So if you’re anything like me, and you forgot to buy shallots, you can use about 1/3 of a small onion in it’s place and not much will change.
So that’s what I learned when I was doing a little more research, and I’m happy to share everything and anything I learn along my cooking journey. That’s what Happy Stirring is all about! And if there’s any more knowledge you can share on the shallots vs. onions, please let me know in the comment below! I’m always looking to learn more along my path, and hopefully we can help each other!
Always Add Cheese! (Especially For This Spicy Vodka Pasta)
Look, I am a lover of cheese. I get that from my dad. I may say the cheese on top on any of my pasta recipes is optional (because I know not all people are as crazy about cheese as I am.) But when it comes to this dish specifically, the goat cheese may be optional, but it’s DEFINITELY recommended. Is the pasta absolutely delicious and creamy without the goat cheese? YES! But the cold creamy goat cheese melting into the warm pasta is THE BEST PART.
The Happy Stirring official taste testers (my mom, and my boyfriend,) all agreed with me on this. The goat cheese makes this pasta. It elevates it past a delicious spicy vodka pasta into a super creamy decadent dinner (or lunch.) So really, I can’t stress enough, the goat cheese may be optional but it’s definitely my favorite part.
Remember to Taste as You Cook
Another thing that’s optional and up to you would be the amount of red pepper you put into the sauce. I used a teaspoon and a half, and it gave it that nice burning aftertaste that I like. Not enough that I was running for some relief, but the perfect level of spiciness. The goat cheese actually helps calm the spice down a lot too! But I know that not everyone has the same spice tolerance.
For instance, my dad would NEVER eat this. He thinks black pepper is too spicy. I think I’d accidentally kill him if I made him try this. But, my mom, on the other hand, has a similar spice tolerance to me. This spicy vodka pasta sauce was juuuust a little bit too spicy for her, but it was perfect for me! So my best piece of advice is, put a little red pepper in at a time and keep tasting it until you have it right. It took me a couple tries making this before I figured out the right amount for myself.
Spicy Vodka Pasta
- 1 lb your favorite pasta
- reserved pasta water very important
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 6oz can tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tsp find ground red pepper
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- goat cheese optional
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and cook your pasta to package directions. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining. I like to try to get a whole cup, just in case. Always better to have more than you need.
- In the meantime, in a sauce pot over medium heat, add 1Tbsp of butter, shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until garlic is fragrant and shallot starts to become translucent, 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and stir well, let cook for 2 – 3 minutes to toast the tomato paste.
- Add vodka and red pepper, and stir to combine. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add cream, stir to combine and let cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until sauce has loosened. I used 1/2 of a cup in total, but if you like your pasta sauce a little thinner, continue to add pasta water to your preference. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add cooked pasta, and remaining Tbsp of butter, mix thoroughly to coat the pasta in the sauce and melt the butter. Top with goat cheese and enjoy!!
Dig in and enjoy! Let me know in the comments what viral recipe I should try next! I’m thinking the baked feta and tomato pasta!!
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