Pasta Alla Vodka with Porcini Mushrooms Posted by: | May 5, 2011

I love cooking with wine. I get high just thinking about tossing wine into a bubbling sauce and hear the alcohol sizzle madly into a mesmerizing steam, which I would inhale deeply with my eyes closed, and go: “Mmmm… wine!”

Don’t even get me started on the excitement (and jitter) I get from flambé-ing alcohol on the stove.

Now comes my second confession. I almost NEVER have wine at hand for cooking. It’s not exactly a staple ingredient I could get any day from the market in my alley, and the only times my wine purchases are justified is when we have guests over. To most families in Vietnam, wine is a luxury. My family included. Why spend so much on a bottle of wine when you can have so much Hanoi Beer instead?

But guess what we always have available on the shelf?


Funny how people here don’t generally spend on wine, but love to give Vodka or other hard liquor like Whisky, Cognac as a respectable gift to one another. Fortunately for me, my Dad doesn’t drink. So all the alcoholic gifts he’s received, are just lined up in our wall cabinet as display. My 21-year old self would scream “House party!!” the moment I see such abundant collection of liquor, but the food-obsessed me today immediately sees it as boozy food! YUM.

I knew what I wanted to make. A very boozy pasta. If most tomato sauces go with dry white wine, it can’t go wrong with Vodka right? After a few Google searches, it turns out the Italians have done that long ago. It’s called “Pasta Alla Vodka”. And The Pioneer Woman has made a kick butt version of it too.

The Pioneer Woman’s recipe calls for 3/4 – 1 cup Vodka. When I poured all that vodka into the pan, I almost spaced out from the stingingly intense alcohol steam that evaporated quickly on the heat. What is left after the alcohol has cooked off, is a very crisp, wine-y flavor without the acidity you would taste when cooking with white wine. What a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure if I want to go back to cooking with white wine anymore. Dad better save up all his Vodka for me.

I also added dried porcini mushrooms, which gave a very deep, earthy taste to the rich tomato-cream-vodka sauce. All those flavors in one dish really makes you forget that there is no meat in there at all. Throw in a couple of basil leaves, peel a few strips of Parmesan strips on top, and you have a wholesome meal plus a much lighter bottle of Vodka.


Pasta Alla Vodka with Porcini Mushrooms

(adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)


  • 1 pound Pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped Finely
  • 2 cloves (to 3 Cloves) Garlic, Chopped
  • ¾ cups (to 1 Cup) Vodka
  • 1 can Tomato Puree or 1 can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes or Paprika Powder
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 handful of dried Porcini Mushrooms, rinsed in hot water for 30 min (optional)
  • 1 handful of basil leaves

    1. Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large skillet, add olive oil and butter. Let the butter melt over medium heat. Once melted, add in chopped onion and garlic. Stir and cook for a few minutes, until the onions are slightly translucent.

    2. Pour in vodka, then stir and cook for 3 minutes, letting the alcohol evaporate completely on the heat. Once the alcohol smell is greatly reduced, add in tomatoes and stir. Let simmer over medium low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced.

    3. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream. Simmer at low heat until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Do not overheat and burn the cream. Season with salt, pepper and a small pinch of red pepper flakes or paprika powder. Throw in the basil leaves. Squeeze the porcini mushrooms dry, rinse under running water until clean (so you don’t color the cream sauce later), and toss into the sauce.

    4. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water for the sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. If it’s too dry, add a little pasta water. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.

    5. Mix until the cheese has coated the pasta. Serve with a few strips of Parmesan cheese on top.

    Enjoy. No hangover guaranteed.



    2 Responses to “Pasta Alla Vodka with Porcini Mushrooms”

    1. My mouth is seriously watering at the sight of this pasta! Mmmm… vodka makes things much better! Do your parents eat this as well? I want to know what their thoughts are of it. It’ll be interesting to know because mine are used to all the foreign cuisines now and do have a go at making them sometimes!

      • Chi Anh says:

        Yeah my parents loved it. But they are always hesitant about cream. Sigh. They are phobic of cream, butter and anything fat. But generally they love pastas and request me to make them every weekend!

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