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.
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.
How to make shrimp pasta alla vodka
Shrimp Pasta alla Vodka Recipe
- 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
- 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sprinkle with parsley and freshly ground black pepper to serve.
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