I just prepared Pasta Alla Vodka at home. This is a very delicious pasta dish that is so simple to make. The ingredients are also quite simple and readily available – tomatoes (those in a can will definitely do), cream and vodka, and yet the sauce is just divine.
Having been an avid cook all these years (it’s one of my most favorite hobbies), I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of qualities the vodka contributes to the dish. Consider this, vodka is a colorless and flavorless alcoholic drink. In fact, it’s most popular quality is that you can hardly taste it, it’s like alcoholic water. So how can something that doesn’t have any overt characteristics be used in a sauce? Is it some big conspiracy among vodka manufacturers so people will buy more vodka?
After a bit research I finally found out the reason for the addition of vodka in the sauce, and it is quite scientific. According to what I’ve read, tomatoes have certain flavor compounds that are not water soluble. These compounds are only soluble in alcohol. So by adding alcohol to the tomato mixture, it helps dissolve these flavor compounds, which results in a more intense tomato flavor. That’s why pasta alla vodka is so much more flavorful than just plain old boiled tomatoes added to pasta. It’s the same principle when adding wine while cooking certain dishes or deglazing a pan. In fact, if you have a big stash of less than ripe or late-summer tomatoes that you want to turn into tomato sauce or pasta sauce, adding vodka to the mix while cooking it will help coax out more tomato flavor.