Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka

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Have you ever made pasta with vodka sauce? It’s a velvety creamy tomato sauce that happens to be cooked with a splash of vodka, which remarkably makes this simple sauce taste simply sublime.

Typically pasta alla vodka is made with penne pasta. For this version we are adding in some fresh shrimp, to make the dish more of a main course, and using fettuccine pasta. We’ve also added a touch of lemon zest because it works with so well with shrimp, and along with the vodka helps brighten this creamy sauce.

Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka

So, why the vodka? According to Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats, quoting Harold McGee, low concentrations of alcohol enhance flavor aromas. Kenji did a full on test of vodka sauces at various concentrations of vodka and determined that yes, adding vodka does make a difference.

That said, it isn’t absolutely necessary. You’ll still have a lovely sauce without it. So if no alcohol is how you roll, just leave out the vodka and enjoy this shrimp fettuccine with a creamy tomato sauce.

Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, about 4 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Put pasta water on to boil: Put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water) on to boil for the pasta.

2 Sauté onions, garlic, red pepper flakes: Melt butter in a large, thick-bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Lower the heat to medium, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook a minute more.

3 Add tomatoes, vodka, cream, zest: Add the crushed tomatoes to the onions. Stir in the vodka, cream, and lemon zest. Increase heat to bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer.

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4 Start cooking pasta: As soon as you start simmering the sauce, add pasta to boiling salted water. Pasta should be done in 10 minutes.

5 Add raw shrimp to sauce: After the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, about halfway through the pasta cooking time, taste for salt and add salt to taste (you'll likely need about 1 teaspoon). Add the raw peeled and deveined shrimp to the sauce.

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Cook until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

6 Add cooked pasta to sauce and shrimp: When the pasta is done, al dente, strain it and add it to the vodka tomato sauce and shrimp.

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Sprinkle with parsley and freshly ground black pepper to serve.

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Links:

Cheesy Cauliflower alla Vodka Casserole from I Breathe I'm Hungry

Shrimp Pasta Alla Vodka

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Showing 4 of 25 Comments

  • threek

    Sounds delish! Would this be safe to eat if reheated and kept in a thermos for lunch the next day?

  • Trish

    I made this for a dinner party last night to rave reviews. It is that perfect balance of “special” and “small time investment” that I seek out as a hostess. I would not change a thing about the recipe! (Oh, and be sure to make enough for leftovers!)

  • Kathy

    The first time I had vodka sauce was at a Italian restaurant on my daughter’s b day. I loved it. I followed your recipe some what. The garlic, I used shallots to replace the onions. I bought a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce, with tomato and basil. Then added the vodka and cream. It was like homemade, but less time.

  • Willis Teoh

    I tried this recipe last week. Oh boy my family and I enjoyed it so much…. I used diced fresh lobster tail instead of shrimps…the vodka did the trick.. Thank you for this recipe :)

  • Chris

    In my house I would have to spoon out the cooked shrimp before tossing the pasta with the sauce. Then carefully add back the cooked shrimp making sure that each plate gets the exact same number of shrimp. This helps to avoid hearing the “petty” person say, “Hey! He got more shrimp than I did!” (note: I’m usually that person!) Yeah, I actually do that will all shrimp and pasta dishes.

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