My baby girl was born at 5:02 am, and by 8 pm that evening, I was enjoying my first meal of sushi after a nine month hiatus.  It was spectacular.  The evening we came home from the hospital I had my first glass of wine.  When she was less than two weeks old, I made this pasta alla vodka.  Even though it is not fun to give up things like sushi, wine and vodka for nine months, I think it goes without saying that the outcome of a healthy baby is so completely worth any sacrifice on my part.  Not only that but when the ban is lifted, it’s pretty wonderful to experience all those favorites again.  As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Now, a lot of people feel perfectly fine eating pasta with vodka sauce during pregnancy and I have nothing against them.  I am just not one of those people.  The concept that all the alcohol added to a dish cooks or bakes off entirely is quite simply wrong.  A quick internet search on the subject will reveal various charts that show how long something must be cooked and at what temperature for a certain percentage of the alcohol to be eliminated.  You might be surprised at what you find – I was.  Ultimately it is up to each person’s individual comfort level with ingesting any amount of alcohol, but for my own purposes I generally avoid using more than a splash of wine in a dish during pregnancy.  I saw this pasta alla vodka pop up on Shanon’s blog, and then Tara’s, and I filed it away under “to make very soon after giving birth”.  The night I made this we had originally planned to grill but the weather decided otherwise.  Afterward, we were all glad for the dark and stormy evening.  There isn’t much to convince you of here –  I mean, it’s pasta with a tomato cream sauce, kicked up with a bit of vodka.  The flavors are simple and subtle, and blend together to make an indulgent and comforting meal.  If it were up to Ben, this is the sauce we would make every time we make pasta.  And you know, I think he might be on to something.

Oh, and to since I’ve posted a few pictures of Andrew lately, here’s one of my sweet girl.  She is growing so fast!


16 oz. dried pasta (I used orchiette)
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup minced onion
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. table salt
¼ to 1/3 cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup reserved pasta water, if needed
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  • 01

    Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for cooking the pasta.  When the water is boiling, add in the pasta and cook according to the package directions until just shy of al dente.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, divide the tomatoes in half.   Add half to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Coarsely chop the remaining tomatoes, discarding the seeds.  Combine the puree and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup.  Add in enough of the reserved tomato liquid so that you have about 2 cups.

  • 03

    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  • 04

    Stir in the tomatoes and salt.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka.  Return the pan to the heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir frequently and lower the heat if the simmering becomes too vigorous.  Stir in the cream and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.  (Take care not to cook the cream too long or the sauce will separate).

  • 05

    When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.  Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

  • Stacey

    Food looks fab – I’ll try this when my pregnancy ends! Your little girl is adorable :)

  • She’s soooo cute.

  • Aw, love the picture of your baby girl! The pasta sounds delicious and worth the wait:-)

  • This looks delicious! I love a good vodka sauce and have tried making several, but haven’t found the magic combination yet. I’m hoping to try this one soon!

  • Anne Marie

    This is one of my all-time favorite dishes. So simple, but so elegant.
    Your baby girl is a perfect clone of you Annie, right down to that little glint in her eye! She is precious and so beautiful!!

  • Ben

    Cutest baby ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • YUM. I loved my first glass of wine after giving birth, too! And, your daughter!!!! OMGSH! Soooo cute. Totally worth the sacrifices. Have a wonderful day!

  • Aww so precious!!!

  • Anne

    Annie, she is just beautiful. What a sweet, darling little clone of her gorgeous mama! And this pasta looks simply divine – it’s been added to my must-make list BEFORE I’m pregnant again myself :-) I must say, every recipe I’ve ever made from your site – and I’ve made quite a few, starting first with the sinfully-good cookie dough cupcakes – has been nothing but delicious and a huge hit with anyone I’ve been unselfish enough to share with. Grazie!

  • I can’t wait until my ban is lifted. If I felt like shelling out the dough for Neocate then I could enjoy all sorts of edible goodness today…but I’m not so I’m enjoying turkey and zucchini like no has ever enjoyed turkey and zucchini. :)

  • Oh yum!

    I never knew that alcohol doesn’t cook out of food – that is definitely good to know!

  • This looks delicious! And your baby girl is so adorable!

  • 1) I can’t wait to make this
    2) OMG THE BABY!! She looks like Andrew, which I guess isn’t surprising..haha. Suuuper cute!
    3) Thank god someone smart like you is such a good pregnant lady, because being pregnant sounds like torture to me and your babies will be doing the world much more good than mine ever will.

    Congrats Annie & Ben!

  • ANNIE! She looks just like you! What a doll (both of you!).
    p.s. Caroline is a GREAT name (used it myself 5 years ago!)
    sauce is on the menu plan for June!

  • Annie

    Well thank you! We have loved the name Caroline for a long, long time and are very happy we got to use it! Enjoy the sauce when the time comes :)

  • I absolutely adore pasta alla vodka. It’s one of my husband and my favorite dishes. While I’ve been mentally preparing myself for giving up sushi for 9 months when I have kids, I actually never thought about having to possibly give this up!
    And with regards to the picture, Caroline is beautiful!

  • Can’t decide what looks more delicious. The bowl of pasta or your little cutie pie!

  • Caroline is beautiful! What a doll!

    I love vodka sauce, but I’m not surprised the alcohol doesn’t cook out–I can always really taste it and not necessarily in a concentrated way! Looking forward to trying out this recipe!

  • My husband is going to love this! This is one of his favorites! You’re daughter is adorable, she looks EXACTLY like you!

  • She is absolutely beautiful!! She really does look a lot like you! This pasta looks fantastic! Can’t wait to make it for my family ;D

  • Suzannah

    The pasta looks delicious, and Caroline is beautiful! When you cook dishes with alcohol in them, do you just serve Andrew something different, or do you feel comfortable letting him taste? I’ve never given it much thought, believing that it cooked out – yikes!

  • Your daughter is just beautiful!

  • I don’t know which is more scrumptious… this pasta alla vodka or your little girl’s chubby cheeks! She is SO adorable, Annie. Also, I’ve always wanted to know how to make this pasta dish so I’ll be saving this to try soon. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos! :)

  • Hands down best penne alla vodka recipe. Haven’t made it in a while either. Gotta love these summer dishes! :)

  • I love this dish! One of my favorites!

  • Your little girl is so adorable :)
    This recipe looks fantastic! I have never made my own vodka sauce but I have had it plenty of times. I will be trying this for sure!

  • How beautiful is your daughter! Such a happy face!

    This pasta isn’t bad either ;)

  • Vodka sauce is so yummy. I’ve never made it myself. I will definitely have to try this!

  • Annie

    Hi Suzannah,
    No, I let Andrew eat dishes that contain alcohol. If you did the math, the actual amount in a serving is very, very small (especially a toddler-sized serving). I know his liver is capable of metabolizing the small amount he may consume. It is the unknowns of fetal development which make me less comfortable with it in pregnancy. I hope that makes sense!

  • Tanya

    Hi Annie,
    Very cute little girly. I love your blog! I’m just wondering how many people this feeds?

  • Annie

    That all depends on serving size and appetite of those eating it. I’d just look at the recipe and estimate for yourself.

  • annie she looks just like you !

  • She is a doll! Thanks for sharing her with us!

  • Wow Annie, she looks like you! I have been looking for a good pasta alla vodka recipe after trying a couple duds, so I’m excited you’ve given us this one…thanks.

  • This looks delicious Annie. Your daughter looks so much like you. :)

  • Betsy Sajdak

    The baby looks just like you!!!! Congrats again! I have been looking for a good vodka sauce recipe! Thank you!

  • Thecounselormom

    Yum!! Love vodka sauce and can’t wait to try it!!

  • Oooh la la! I love pasta with vodka sauce and this recipe looks absolutely delicious – I can’t wait to try it!

    Your daughter is absolutely gorgeous!! :)

  • Honeybee

    I can so relate to that!! The only thing I ever craved during pregnancy was sushi!! Of all things… I ended up breastfeeding for one year so in the end, I abstained from alcohol for a looong time. Oh, that first beer tasted so good!

  • What a beautiful baby, oh, and the pasta looks delicious also!

  • Beautiful baby! I am the same way as you. I am a complete tee-totaler during pregnancy, but the moment it’s over, I GO TO TOWN. (Mind you, I feed my kids penne ala vodka with no hesitation, but won’t it when I’m pregnant.)

  • That is one super sweet baby… Such a sweet face!

    And as for that pasta, I must make that soon. I’ve always loved pasta alla Vodka but never feel like making it. You’ve inspired me!

  • Heidi

    I feel like a moron – I’ve eating plenty of meals with white wine, marsala, etc. in them, just assuming it cooks off. I’m educated! I mean, my husband and I are both pharmacists… that never even occurred to me. I figured if I wasn’t drinking it, then I was good. I’ll have to read up on it, and in the meantime, dang it! One more thing to add to my list. Where are you on things like goat cheese? I’ll be honest- I didn’t eat it with our daughter, but with this baby, I figure there are worse things (like packaged food vs. a source of calcium). We know exactly where it comes from… I’m second guessing all my dietary choices! :)4 more months…

  • Heidi

    *been eating

    My brain is tired :)

  • penandra

    What a cutie patootie you have there! She is just adorable.

    Thank you for letting the blogosphere know that all alcohol does not cook out in a dish . . . I need to avoid alcohol for reasons other than pregnancy, so while I have no idea how this dish is with alcohol, I can tell you that even without it, it is VERY delish! Thank you for reminding me of it. I’d seen it on some other blogs, but for one reason or another, hadn’t tried it yet. I am glad you reminded me!

  • Annie

    In the US, almost all cheeses are pasteurized. As long as it’s pasteurized, I eat it.

  • jen

    you know annie, in addition to your great recipes and fun blog, your medical knowledge is quite helpful! i’m currently in my third trimester and have two little boys and i cook with alcohol all the time, always believing it cooked out. thanks for sharing your food AND your expertise with us, some things just never come up at an OB appointment! i’m now making a list of things to try after baby comes. wondering if the same “rules” apply for a nursing mom (no drinking/cooking with alcohol)?

  • Annie

    It’s generally thought that you can enjoy a glass or two of wine (or beers, etc) while breastfeeding. Just don’t go overboard. There are test strips available to tell whether your milk is safe or not. I haven’t tried them, I just keep it light. I breastfed my son for over a year and plan to do the same this time around.

  • jen

    i can’t “reply” ( i think my computer is being lame), but i wanted to say thanks for the info :)

  • Selene

    Just made it tonight…delish! Thanks!!

  • Made this last night for dinner and it was fantastic!! The red pepper flakes added the perfect kick. And thank you for the careful directions on when to add the cream – 1 minute was just enough time. Congrats on the beautiful baby girl!, Camille

  • Jessie

    This recipe looks amazing- delicious and easy to make. Your daughter is precious. I’d been hoping to see a pic sometime!

  • Elizabeth

    This looks amazing! I need to try it soon.
    P.S. I have an eight month old daughter named Caroline. And I also ate sushi in the hospital right after my daughter was born. It was so good after a 9 month sabbatical.

  • Lisa

    Can’t wait to try this! Your sweet baby girl looks just like her pretty momma :)
    I am truly amazed that you do all this while being a resident physician! You Go GIRL!

  • Amy

    Hi Annie! I have made this twice already and LOVED the sauce! I planned to make it again tonight for dinner and a movie with some friends, but only have peeled plum tomatoes. Do you think those would work in this recipe? Thanks!

  • skinnyfatkids

    I love vodka sauce, but SFK won’t eat jarred sauce. I’ll have to try this with fat free half and half to see how it goes!

  • Viv

    Incredible! Thanks a lot. To date, one of my fave!

  • Karen

    Made this tonight for myself and a friend. Super yummy! Thanks!

  • Sara

    What can I substitute for Vodka? I will have to try this out sometime!

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page. Thanks.

  • Looks yummy. Must try. How would this be with homemade spaghetti? I just got the Kitchen Aid attachment for making pasta.

  • annieseats

    I’m sure it would be great. Enjoy!

  • Heidi Schermerhorn

    Made this tonight! Yummo!

  • Would it be possible to not put cream into the recipe? if not, is there something i could substitute it with? Thanks! :)

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding substitutions/omissions. Thanks!