Cavatelli alla Vodka

  • Level: Easy
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  • Total: 35 min
  • Active: 20 min


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter 

1 onion, minced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste 

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 

2 cloves garlic, minced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/3 cup vodka 

One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

1 pound cavatelli pasta, recipe follows (or use ready-made fresh or frozen)

Fresh basil, torn, for garnish 

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Crusty Italian bread, for serving

Cavatelli Pasta:

2 1/2 cups 00 flour

1 cup semolina flour, plus more for sprinkling

1 cup room-temperature water

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 


  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and butter and cook until foaming. Add the onions, season with a little salt and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the crushed red pepper, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cook for 15 more seconds. Add the vodka and deglaze the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer until the alcohol smell subsides, then add the cream. Let it cook down until it is slightly reduced and flavorful, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta to al dente, 4 to 5 minutes for fresh, or according to the package instructions.
  3. Toss the sauce with the hot pasta and garnish with fresh basil and grated Parm. Serve with a crusty hunk of Italian bread.

Cavatelli Pasta:

  1. Combine the 00 and semolina flours with the salt on a clean working surface, form into a mound and make a well in the center. Combine the water, olive oil and salt and add the mixture a little at a time (see Cook's Note). Using a fork, start to mix the dry ingredients into the wet until a shaggy mass forms. Knead vigorously until the dough is smooth, elastic and bounces back when pressed, about 10 minutes.
  2. Cut the dough in half and work with one piece at a time (cover the other piece with a clean, damp kitchen towel). Using a bench scraper or knife, cut a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it into a thin rope about 1/3 inch in diameter. Using the 4 fingers of your hand (no thumb), roll the rope of dough back and forth until it is a long, slender, tube-like shape (but not enclosed like a tube). Halve the pieces of pasta lengthwise. Set aside on a clean town sprinkled with semolina flour. Repeat with the remaining dough. Rest the pasta for 30 minutes.
  3. To cook, generously salt a large pot of boiling water. Add the cavatelli and cook until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and use with your sauce recipe of choice.

Cook’s Note

If it is a damp or rainy day, add three-quarters of the water and oil mixture, then add the rest a little bit at a time until the dough comes together. The dough can absorb moisture from the air.

Let's Get Cooking!

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Diane O.

Delicious! I used Michael Symon’s cavatelli recipe but Jeff’s sauce. Huge hit with my boyfriend. Will make this sauce again.

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