Looking for a dish that’ll use up that bevy of ingredients tucked away in your pantry? Try this recipe for pasta alla vodka, built out of a supremely pink tomato-based sauce and only a few other ingredients you’re likely to always have on hand. While most vodka sauce recipes call for tomato sauce, I prefer tomato paste, an item that should become a staple in your pantry (if it hasn’t already). It gets cooked down with the onions and pancetta into a thick, creamy paste, then loosened up with vodka and cream to become a shiny, rich sauce.

When you’re making vodka sauce, a cheffed-up trick is to reserve about ¼ cup of the pasta water, which is super starchy. As it’s swirled into the pasta and sauce, it thickens the sauce, expertly clinging to the noodles. This recipe comes together in the time it takes you to cook the pasta (any shape will do; I’ve even tossed it with ravioli for a truly decadent spin), and it’s so impressive that once you have a bite it’ll be hard to believe it’s simply made out of pantry staples.

  • 1 lb of your favorite pasta
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup pancetta, minced (prosciutto or bacon can be substituted)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced (optional)
  • 1 tube tomato paste
  • 1 shot glass (3 Tablespoons) vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • ½ grated Parmigiano cheese

  1. Boil the pasta based on package instructions.
  2. In a large skillet pan, heat olive oil to medium and add butter.
  3. Once the butter melts, add pancetta and cook for 5 minutes until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp.
  4. Add garlic and shallot and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Carefully squeeze in the tomato paste and using a wooden spoon, gently swirl and spread it around the pan. Heat it for 2 minutes while you move it around.
  6. Add the vodka and mix it to the paste.
  7. Add the heavy cream and increase the heat to medium high. Carefully swirl the heavy cream into the paste to fully incorporate. Add salt. Taste and add more if needed.
  8. Strain the pasta and add the pasta and the reserved pasta water into the sauce.
  9. Garnish with cheese.