Shrimp alla vodka combines succulent shrimp and al dente pasta tossed together in a creamy pink sauce with just a touch of Calabrian chili paste and finished with fresh hand-torn basil. This simple pasta can be ready in under an hour and is always a hit!
You can really never go wrong when combining shrimp with pasta.
Whether it's this shrimp alla vodka, shrimp Alfredo, or lemon garlic shrimp pasta, the finished product never disappoints.
And one of the best parts is it's incredibly easy to make and can be ready in about 40 minutes.
Pasta alla vodka with shrimp is perfect for weeknights, but is impressive enough to serve at dinner parties and gatherings!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt with 1 ¼ pounds of peeled and deveined shrimp and set aside. Note: we removed the tails for this one but you can also leave the tails on.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Dice 1 medium onion and mince 4 cloves of garlic. In a large pan over medium-low heat saute the onion in ¼ cup of olive oil for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic and cook until lightly golden, 1-2 minutes. Add a ½ teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add 4 ounces of vodka and 4 ounces of white wine to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook the alcohol out and reduce for 3 minutes or until the liquid reduces by half.
- Add 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes to the pan and mix well to incorporate. Bring the sauce to a lively simmer, then turn the heat down to low.
- At this point, add 1 pound of rigatoni (or paccheri, or any other tubular pasta) to the boiling water and cook to 1 minute less than al dente. While the pasta cooks, heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and add them to the hot pan. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides, about 3 minutes total, then place them on a plate lightly tented with foil to stay warm.
- Add 1 cup of heavy cream to the sauce and stir to combine.
- Allow the sauce to cook on the lowest setting while you wait for your pasta.
- When the pasta is 1 minute less than al dente, add it to the sauce along with the shrimp and stir to combine. Cook the pasta just until it reaches al dente, then remove the pan from the heat. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add a ¼ cup of hand-torn fresh basil and toss to coat. If the pasta is at all dry, add a touch of pasta water to bring it back to the perfect consistency. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Shrimp. We used U26-30 shrimp for this recipe but any larger shrimp will do for shrimp alla vodka. We add baking soda and salt to brine the shrimp because it helps the shrimp stay plump. Also, for this recipe, we removed the tails from the shrimp because it's easier to eat, but feel free to leave them on. They do add more flavor and make for a better presentation.
- Wine. In addition to vodka, we always include a dry white wine in our alla vodka sauce. It adds additional flavor and really compliments the cream sauce. Sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio are both great to use here.
- Cream. We recommend using heavy cream for this recipe since milk, and even half and half has a tendency to break. If you want to use either of those make sure to temper them to prevent breaking your sauce.
- Spice. Calabrian chili paste adds additional flavor and heat to this dish. It's a bit smoky and pairs perfectly with the creamy pink sauce and shrimp. If you like a lot of heat, add more. If you prefer less, you can omit it and just use some crushed red chili flakes or none at all.
- Save your pasta water! We say this in every pasta recipe because it's that important. Creamy pastas tend to dry out quicker so it's even more important for this recipe!
More shrimp pasta recipes
- Shrimp tomato basil pasta - with garlic and Calabrian chili paste.
- Cajun shrimp pasta - with andouille sausage.
- Shrimp fra diavolo - with linguine in a spicy tomato sauce.
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For the shrimp brine
- 1 ¼ pounds large shrimp cleaned and tails removed
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste or more to taste
For the vodka sauce
- 1 pound rigatoni or ridged paccheri or any tubular pasta you like
- 7 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon Calabrian chili paste
- 4 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces dry white wine
- 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup basil hand torn for finishing
- 1 cup reserved pasta water to thin if needed - will most likely not need all of it
For the shrimp brine
- In a bowl, mix all of the shrimp brine ingredients and cover and refrigerate while making sauce.
For the vodka sauce
- Bring a large pot of salted (2 tablespoons per gallon) water to boil.
- Heat a large pan to medium-low heat with ¼ cup of olive oil and saute the onion for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Once soft add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes or until lightly golden. Add the Calabrian chili paste and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the white wine and vodka to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the alcohol cook out and reduce for 3 minutes or until it reduces by about half.
- Next, add in the tomatoes and mix well to incorporate. Bring to a lively simmer then turn the heat down to low.
- At this time begin boiling the pasta to 1 minute less than al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels then add them to the hot pan. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides (about 3 minutes total) then place them on a plate and tent lightly with foil.
- Add the cream to the sauce and stir to combine. Let the sauce cook on the lowest setting.
- Add the almost al dente pasta to the sauce along with the shrimp and stir to combine. Cook the pasta until it just reaches al dente then remove the pan from the heat.
- Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss to coat. If the pasta is at all dry, add a couple of ounces of pasta water to get the consistency just right. Enjoy!
- Makes 6 moderate or 4 large portions
- Calabrian chili paste levels should be adjusted to personal spice preferences.
- Any large shrimp will work for this dish
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave.
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