Pasta with Creamy Lemon Vodka Sauce

There just are times when I shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.  And one of those times is when I’m having a pasta craving and begin rummaging through the fridge and cupboards for ingredients to create that certain sauce that will create that certain pasta dish that I know I’m craving, but can’t quite put my finger on.  I was having one of those days last week when my husband walked through the kitchen to find me standing on a chair swigging limoncello at 10:00 in the morning. 

What.  You don’t do that?  Well, in my defense, I had been working on this pasta sauce and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to use white wine or a liqueur in it.  Obviously, the limoncello was too sweet, (but really good!), but it gave me the idea to use vodka in this sauce which, as it turns out was about perfect.  And the resulting sauce, a gorgeous blend of ricotta cheese, crushed red pepper, fresh herbs and lemon, garlic, parmesan cheese and that vodka did not disappoint.

So back to my original point… did I really NEED to make this pasta?  I don’t think so.  I already have more pasta recipes than I’ll ever have time to make.  And then this particular dish is one of those that pulls your fork, as if by some magnetic force, back to the bowl for another bite long after you’ve admitted that you’re full.  I don’t need that in my life. 

But I really really liked this.  And I was so glad that there were actually leftovers because a few nights ago I took that beautiful pasta and placed it in a baking dish and topped it with some breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and baked it until it was a little bubbly and heated through.  Oh my.  Maybe I really do need this in my life.

Pasta with Creamy Lemon Vodka Sauce

Printable Recipe

1 pound spaghetti

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more depending on how spicy you want it)

½ cup vodka

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese

Zest of 2 lemons, 1 lemon juiced

Chopped fresh parsley and basil

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes.

2. While the pasta cooks, sauté the garlic and crushed red pepper in olive oil in a large skillet for 3 minutes.  Add the vodka and lemon zest and simmer to reduce by half, about 3 more minutes.  Add the ricotta cheese and stir to combine.

3. When the pasta is just about cooked, add a ladle of starchy pasta cooking water to the skillet with the sauce.  When the cheese is warmed through, whisk the lemon juice into the sauce and season with salt and some of the fresh herbs. 

4.Drain the pasta (reserve another cup or so of the pasta water) and toss with the sauce, then let the pasta stand for a couple of minutes so it can soak up a little of the sauce and lots of flavor. Add more of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick.

5. Toss with more of the parsley, basil and a couple handfuls of grated cheese.

6. To serve, place the pasta in a large serving bowl and sprinkle with more of the fresh herbs and grated cheese.