About lastnight…this mama was in the kitchen, and I tackled a new pasta dish that I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time. I love love love whipping up pasta dishes–and of course, I also love that more often than not, everyone in the family approves. THIS dish, inspired by Half Baked Harvest was no exception.
I’ve never cooked a creamy, vodka sauce before, so I was a little skeptical if this would be a hit or not, especially with my littles…but WOW, every single child had a second helping! And this actually has a bit of a kick to it, even though I only used half the recommended amount of crushed red chili pepper flakes. I think this is the kind of “spicy” that anyone can tolerate. It was just enough pizazz without making you sweat while eating! HA.
The sauce is a mix of tomato paste and pesto, primarily, with some kick from the pepper flakes, but it’s also so very creamy once you add in the canned coconut milk. I prefer that over heavy cream almost every time. I did add some extra to help tone down the kick for the kiddos. But other than that, I wouldn’t change a single thing about the vodka sauce. Oh, and if you’d rather not use vodka, you can sub with chicken or vegetable broth; no problem!
I was very impressed with not only the taste and creeeeeaminess of this vodka pesto sauce, but also how easy it was to make! You can’t beat that. Plus, my husband gave me several head nods of approval from across the table with each bite, and we definitely polished this off as a family of 5, in one night. That’s good enough for me! Next time, I’m making SURE there’s leftovers, though. Oh, and I’ll definitely pair it with Pinot Noir again, too, because it was a match made in heaven with this creamy pasta with a lil’ kick. I have to say: I actually enjoyed putting this together, and I hope you will too.
Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup vodka or chicken broth
- 3/4 cup basil pesto
- 1 lb mezzi rigatoni or any short-cut pasta
- 1 cup canned coconut milk or heavy cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup fresh basil optional
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil simmers, add the shallot, garlic, and oregano. Cook until the shallots soften, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, and add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring throughout.
- Stir in the vodka. Cook another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the pesto and milk or cream, and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Keep warm over low heat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook accordingly, until al dente. Just before draining, make sure to reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water. Then, drain the rest.
- Add the butter into the pot with the strained pasta. Let it melt as you stir.
- Pour the vodka sauce into the pot and stir. If needed, add some pasta water, if it's too thick.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese. Continue to add pasta water, if needed, until you've reached your desired texture/creaminess.
- Serve in bowls or plates, and top with additional parmesan, chopped basil, or Italian sausage (optional). Enjoy!