Pasta with tomato vodka sauce, chilli and burrata

Add a splash of vodka to your pasta sauce.
Add a splash of vodka to your pasta sauce. Photo: Katrina Meynink

There have been many claims to the invention of the more traditional parent to this number, penne alla vodka, but whatever its origins, the subtle kick of vodka lifts the most simple of tomato sauce and pasta combinations. Skip the roasted chillies for five-minute midweek saviour cooking at its finest.


2 tsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

200ml tomato passata

salt and pepper to season

10-12 basil leaves

1 cup good quality semi-dried smoked tomatoes, roughly chopped

½ cup bocconcini balls

¼ cup vodka

about 100g-150g pasta per serve (use a thick flat-style pasta that will catch the sauce and melted cheese)

To serve

4 fresh red chillies

1 ball burrata or buffalo mozzarella

microherbs (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 190C-200C. Place the chillies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until skins are thoroughly blackened. Flip to expose the other side and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until skins are thoroughly charred. Remove and set aside.

2. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the chopped onion and garlic and fry gently until golden. Add the tomato passata and season with salt and pepper. Add several fresh basil leaves and cook gently for about 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, bring a pan of water to the boil, add salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well.

4. Add the semi-dried tomatoes, vodka and bocconcini to the sauce. Return to low heat until the cheese just starts to string and melt. Add the drained pasta and shake the pan to coat the pasta in sauce.

5. Remove from heat, divide among four serving bowls and top with each a coarsely torn piece of burrata or mozzarella, a roasted chilli and microherbs. Serve piping hot.