This spicy vodka pasta is creamy, rich, beautifully balanced and tastes like you’ve been slaving away for hours when it took less than 30 minutes. If you need a quick, delicious dinner that will seriously impress your friends and family, this is it.

small bowl with orecchiette pasta, creamy vodka sauce and italian sausage, topped with parmesan, basil and black pepper

Okay I’ll be honest. I never even saw the original viral Gigi Hadid pasta video. Actually, I think it might’ve just been an instagram story? Y’all can correct me if I’m wrong. But I did see everyone on social media go absolutely bonkers over it. The supermodel Gigi Hadid of course did not invent pasta alla vodka, but she did make it popular, and for good reason. It. is. so. good.

You’ll find lots of variations of this recipe all over the internet and Tik Tok but this is my version of the viral dish! It features a spicy vodka sauce, orecchiette pasta and mild Italian sausage. Gigi Hadid’s pasta recipe does not include sausage but I included it for a little more balance in this meal.

Pair this easy pasta with a big green salad and hunk of garlic bread and you’ll have a meal the whole family will love!

What you need to make spicy pasta alla vodka:

ingredients needed for the recipe

Extra virgin olive oil: good quality olive oil starts the base of the sauce and is used for sautéing the shallot and garlic.

Shallot: finely minced shallot provides a beautiful flavor base to start the sauce. You could also use red onion or sweet onion if that’s what you have.

Garlic: I mean, what’s pasta without garlic? You know me, and I will always tell you to buy fresh garlic instead of jarred or powdered but you do you boo!

Tomato paste: ultra-concentrated tomato flavor, tomato paste adds the tomato element to the sauce. I love to buy the kind in the tube instead of the can that way if a recipe doesn’t call for a whole 6oz can I can easily squeeze out what I need and store the rest in the fridge. You can find tomato paste in the pasta aisle next to the jarred pasta sauces.

Vodka: vodka is used to deglaze the pan and scrape up all those wonderful flavorful bits stuck to the bottom. If vodka is not something you usually have on hand, you can use a dry white wine, vegetable broth or chicken broth.

Red pepper flakes: red chili flakes contribute to the name “spicy” vodka pasta! They are the main source of heat in this recipe and you can adjust the quantity based on your heat preference.

Heavy cream: the heavy cream, also called heavy whipping cream, makes this creamy vodka sauce well, creamy. Find it in the refrigerated section next to the milk and creamers.

Parmesan cheese: for best flavor, use a microplane to finely grate parmesan cheese from a block. You can also use pecorino romano cheese which is a close alternative to parmesan.

Butter: just a little pat of butter adds another layer of luxury to this creamy sauce.

Italian sausage: this pasta is delicious without it if you want to keep things vegetarian, but if you want a little extra protein, sausage is a great addition.

Orecchiette pasta: orecchiette is a small, ear-shaped pasta variety with a concave center that captures the amazing creamy tomato sauce. It is my preferred pasta shape for this recipe but you could use any kind of pasta you like- penne pasta, shell pasta, whole wheat pasta, etc. Any short pasta shape will work.

bowl of uncooked orecchiette pasta

How to make:

Cook the sausage: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the Italian sausage, breaking apart with a spatula until well-browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Be sure to save one cup pasta cooking liquid before you drain the pasta. I like to use a liquid measuring cup to scoop out one cup during the last minute of cooking.

Make the spicy vodka pasta sauce: In the same skillet you cooked the sausage, add the olive over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and stir. Deglaze the pan with the vodka, letting it sizzle out while scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the cream, parmesan and butter until well-combined. Add the cooked pasta and sausage to the sauce and pour in the reserved cup pasta water. You can start conservatively with one-half cup and add a little water as needed until the sauce is glossy and coats the pasta.

Serve it up: add pasta to serving bowls or plates and garnish with parmesan, cracked pepper and basil. Serve with a side salad or steamed or roasted veggies for a balanced meal.

cutting board with minced shallot, minced garlic and grated parmesan cheese

FAQs

Can I make this gluten-free?

To make this gluten-free use certified gluten-free noodles like chickpea pasta, lentil pasta or brown rice pasta.

Do I have to use vodka?

Technically, no. Vodka is in the title of this recipe, but you will still get a delicious result if you substitute white wine, broth or even water to deglaze the pan.

What can I substitute for heavy cream?

To make this dairy-free you could try canned coconut cream and a non-dairy butter alternative. To make it lighter in fat and calories you can use half and half but pleeeease don’t use anything lower fat than that, it simply will not be the same.

Can I adjust the spice level?

The spiciness comes from red pepper flakes. If you cannot tolerate any amount of heat simply do not add them. As written (with ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes) I’d give the recipe a 2/5 for spice. If you like it spicy then add lots of red pepper flakes!

How should I store the leftovers?

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to four days.

small bowl with spicy vodka pasta topped with fresh basil

What should I serve with spicy vodka pasta?

Here are a few ideas on how to round out the meal:

bowl of pasta alla vodka with skillet of pasta in the background

If you love this recipe you’ll love these other simple pasta dinners:

If you make this simple recipe and love it, please don’t forget to leave a comment and star rating, I appreciate it so much! Also, I love to see your creations so tag me (@itsaflavorfullife) on Instagram.

Watch how to make:

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bowl of pasta alla vodka topped with fresh basil and parmesan

Spicy Vodka Pasta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Erica
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Perfectly al dente pasta, creamy tomato-based sauce, pillowy grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves, this spicy vodka pasta is going to be your new favorite pasta dish!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (3oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy!)
  • 3 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1lb mild Italian sausage
  • 8oz orecchiette pasta (or small shell pasta)
  • 1 cup starchy pasta water
  • For serving: more parmesan, black pepper and fresh basil leaves

Instructions

Brown sausage: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the Italian sausage, breaking apart with a spatula until well-browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Be sure to save one cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. I like to use a liquid measuring cup to scoop out one cup during the last minute of pasta cooking time.

Make vodka sauce: In the same skillet you cooked the sausage, add the olive over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and stir. Deglaze the pan with the vodka, letting it sizzle out while scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the cream, parmesan, and butter until well-combined. Add the pasta and sausage to the sauce and pour in reserved pasta water, starting with ½ cup and adding more as you need. I end up using the full cup, you want a glossy sauce that coats the pasta beautifully. If you don’t add enough pasta water, your pasta will be cakey and dry.

Serve it up: Garnish with fresh basil, more parmesan and fresh cracked pepper. Slay.


Notes

Refer to above blog post for ingredient substitution ideas, what to serve with spicy vodka pasta and answers to frequently asked questions.

Nutrition information is an estimate and may vary slightly based on different ingredients, brands, etc.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/6 recipe
  • Calories: 548
  • Sugar: 3.6 g
  • Sodium: 784.1 mg
  • Fat: 35.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.7 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 19.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 89.9 mg

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