I’ve been making pasta with vodka sauce forever it seems, certainly when I was cooking meals in my first apartment. But it seems to have had a social media resurgence – kids today think it’s a “viral hack.” I almost hate to burst their bubble, tell them that their mama was making it when she was your age. But it sticks around for a reason, adding a dose of vodka to a tomato sauce seems to enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes while adding a little edge, but never a rough, alcoholic bite. And as we enter the super busy autumn, what good be better than a delicious one pot meal. Fewer dishes to deal with – and if you have a lovely dish that looks pretty on the table as well as the stove all the better. And now we are on a roll, check out my other one pot pasta recipes, like these Carrot Coconut Curry Noodles, or Shrimp and Chorizo, or baked Artichoke and Spinach.
I consider this a meal on its own, but it could certainly be a side for a protein dish. You could also add some sliced grilled chicken or cooked shrimp. The slightly charred and bursting cherry tomatoes create a nice textural change and extra tomato hit. You could roast them sperately while cooking (but that’s another pot to clean), or if you like drop them raw onto the orzo, cover the pot and let them warm through while resting. Stirring the vodka in toward the end give the alcohol time to evaporate but leaves behind a slightly fruity kick. I love creamy mascarpone cheese here, but you could use cream cheese or crème fraiche. But the lovely, creamy sauce is a real treat. Freshly grated parmesan adds a salty and cheesy hit.
One Pot Orzo alla Vodka
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, put through a press or finely minced
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ cups orzo pasta
¼ cup vodka
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh basil, about ¼ cup
- Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a 2.5 to 3 quart pot or braiser. Heat over medium high heat, then tumble in the cherry tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to char and collapse, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to a bowl. Take the pan of the heat to cool slightly (if you add the garlic to the screaming hot oil, it will burn).
- Add an about 2 teaspoons more oil to the pan and return to medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft and fragrant, but do not let it burn or scorch. Pour in the broth, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the milk, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and stir well. Bring to a boil, then add the orzo, stirring well. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so the orzo doesn’t stick. At this point the orzo should be almost al dente, but there will be some liquid in the pot. Pour in the vodka and cook, stirring, for 4 – 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit more. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mascarpone and the parmesan cheese until melted and combined. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt if you want. Spoon the cherry tomatoes onto the top of the orzo and cover the pot. Let the orzo rest for about 5 minutes (the cherry tomatoes will warm back up too), then drizzle with olive oil and a little extra parmesan and serve.