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Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Shrimp


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  • 1 small to medium onion
  • EVOO
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste OR 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 can (28 ounces) Italian crushed tomatoes
  • A few leaves of basil, torn, plus a few to serve
  • 1 pound penne rigate pasta
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, deveined and tails removed
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup Pernod or white vermouth
  • A handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • A handful freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus some to pass at table, optional ( -- and controversial to some Italians)


Servings 4
Preparation time 30mins
Cooking time 30mins


Step 1

Place a large pot of water on the stove for pasta. Also put up a deep skillet for sauce and a nonstick skillet for shrimp.
Gather your ingredients.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
In a large deep skillet, heat EVOO, a turn of the pan. Add 2 tablespoons butter and when it foams add the onions. Stir to soften while you peel and chop the garlic. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic to onions and season with salt. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of chili paste or about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Add vodka and reduce by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and tear in a few leaves of basil. Reduce heat and simmer sauce, 10 minutes.
Season pasta water with a fat tablespoon of salt, add penne and cook 1 minute less than package directions, about 8 minutes. Have a mug or measuring cup on hand.
Add shrimp to a medium bowl and toss with remaining garlic. Thinly slice a lemon and toss with shrimp.
In the second skillet, heat EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high and melt in 2 tablespoons butter. Add the shrimp mixture and toss 2 to 3 minutes; shrimp should be pink and opaque. Add a splash of Pernod or vermouth, the remaining red pepper flakes, a little salt and parsley; toss. Turn off heat.
Add cream to sauce and stir. Add shrimp to sauce, bring back to a bubble and turn off heat.
Reserve about 1/2 cup of starchy salty water and drain pasta or transfer to sauce with a spider. Toss pasta with sauce and grated cheese, using water to loosen as necessary.
Transfer pasta to large serving bowl or to individual shallow bowls to serve.

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