Spicy Pesto Penne alla Vodka  

Real Estate Agent with COMPASS RE See Skills

Penne alla Vodka is one of our favorite dishes. The sauce is the perfect balance of rich and creamy without being overbearing like a heavy alfredo sauce. This variation marries the traditional vodka sauce with an earthy pesto, and the spice level gets kicked up a notch with crushed red pepper flakes. If you don't like spicy foods, you can leave out the red pepper flakes entirely. We promise we won't judge!



1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1–2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup vodka (use a “bottom shelf” brand)

3/4 cup basil pest

salt and black pepper, to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1 pound penne pasta

3 tablespoons salted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup fresh basil roughly chopped



Bring a large pot of salted water over medium high heat.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is warmed, add the shallot, garlic, and oregano. Cook until the shallots begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes, cook 4-5 minutes, until thickened. Remove pan from heat. Stir in the vodka,, return to heat, and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the pesto and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

Once salted water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook 2 minutes shy of package directions, or until al dente. Just before draining, remove 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain.

To the vodka sauce, add the pasta, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and the butter, tossing until the butter has melted. Add the parmesan and basil. If needed, thin the sauce with additional pasta cooking water.

After dishing pasta, just before serving, garnish with basil and cheese.

Comments (5)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Debbie and Carmine - adapting and adjusting is as much a part of life as it is an ingredient in a recipe.  As a non-expert in both, I believe we learn many lessons in life as we navigate this bumpy road with its twists, turns and detours.   

Jan 30, 2023 10:00 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

OH YUMMY, will need to try this recipe Debbie & Carmine!  Thanks for sharing.

Jan 30, 2023 10:19 AM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

Thank you for sharing the recipe.  I have never tried cooking with Vodka.  I may have to pour myself a Martini and contemplate doing so.  😃

Jan 30, 2023 10:44 AM
Carmine Rauso & Debbie Rauso

That would be a good way to do it!

Jan 30, 2023 11:22 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

That sounds like a delicious meal and if I enjoyed cooking I would likely try to make it for myself, haha.

Jan 31, 2023 04:37 AM
Carmine Rauso & Debbie Rauso

Thanks for your honesty haha!

Jan 31, 2023 05:37 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Carmine & Debbie Rauso  I am all about cooking now share a photo of the recipe or the results:)Endre

Jan 31, 2023 09:15 PM