Baked Vodka Pasta +5 Cozy Pasta + Dessert Recipes To Get You Through The Rest of Winter

I had this recipe ready to go a couple of weeks ago but then COVID hit our house. We are all recovering now but we had a rough go of it. This baked vodka pasta is comfort in a bowl. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did…before we lost our sense of taste and smell. I’m looking forward to spring. More recipes and writing to come. Stay healthy and safe!

Baked Vodka Pasta

Recipe adapted from Alexandra Cooks

Serves 6-8


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup vodka

1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste

Kosher salt, to taste

Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

1lb penne pasta

Parmesan rind

1 cup parmesan

½ cup heavy cream

16 ounces of whole milk ricotta cheese

8 ounces fresh mozzarella

Fresh basil, optional but delicious


Combine the butter, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir often until butter is melted and garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Next, add the vodka and bring to a simmer. Allow the vodka to reduce by one third so cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and mix well.  Next, add the crushed tomatoes, parmesan rind, and a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper.  Simmer over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the penne and cook for 6 minutes (4 minutes under the al dente time).  Reserve 1 cup of the past liquid and set aside.  Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.

Remove the parmesan rind from the sauce.  Add some reserved pasta liquid if the sauce seems too thick.  Place the pasta in a large bowl.  Add the sauce and parmesan.  Mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Using a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta and heavy cream.

Add half of the pasta to a 9×13 pan.  Spread ricotta mixture evenly over pasta and top with remaining pasta.  Tear the mozzarella into chunks and spread it evenly over the pasta.  Bake until the top of the cheese is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve with fresh torn basil leaves and more parmesan if desired.  I highly recommend it! 

**Pasta dish can be made a few hours or up to a day ahead of time.  Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. **

**Vodka can be replaced with an equal amount of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. **

Cozy Winter Dinner and Dessert Links

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Tortellini + Chocolate Cake

Winter Squash Lasagna + White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Pavlova

Shrimp Scampi Pasta + Red Velvet Marble Cake

Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables + Stewed Cherry Eton Mess

Homemade Mac n’ Cheese + Banana Cream Pie

Garlic Butter Pasta with Spinach, Lemon + Parmesan

Our CSA started this week and I am so excited. We first joined a CSA last summer and we are hooked. I love picking up our share every week. The fruit and vegetables still have bits of earth on them. They smell like earth and the colors cannot be replicated in paintings or photography. The bits of dirt remind me of where this food came from and I like that.



I love color of the asparagus tips. The purple is just coming through. They look so delicate. Asparagus works with so many dishes and it is one of the few vegetables my kids will eat. I wanted to work them into the easy pasta dish I made but decided to hold off. I’ll save them for the next night when I grill chicken which the kids won’t eat. When I watch them ignore their chicken but eat the asparagus, dipped in a vinaigrette of course, I won’t feel like I completely lost the dinner battle.

So, I decided to make an easy pasta dish with the spinach we received this week. This pasta dish comes together quickly which is perfect for a weeknight. The spinach was a beautiful bright green and covered in dirt. After a good rinsing it was ready for sautéing.


I like to have a glass of wine or a beer when I cook. Also, I usually turn on a half hour show for the kids to watch so I can relax a bit. Cooking dinner with kids underfoot is miserable. It raises the stress level which is so not necessary. Things are stressful as is, so why not be kind to myself?  Once I hear the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song come on the stress lowers a bit and then I have a sip of a beer or a glass wine and I am well one my way to getting dinner on the table.

_KH10049Once the greens are sautéing, I chop up my herbs and zest the lemon. The pasta water is almost at a boil.



I used a combination of rosemary and thyme. I love lemon zest in pasta and a pinch of red pepper flakes adds a slight spice to the dish. The parmesan adds a perfect saltiness but who am I kidding? I could parmesan on anything.

Bubba liked this meal. The kids requested their pasta plain which I obliged because not every battle, every night needs to be fought.


Garlic Butter Pasta with Spinach, Lemon and Parmesan

serves 2-3

adapted from Naturally Ella


4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic

2 sprigs rosemary finely chopped

zest of 1 lemon

3 handfuls spinach

8 ounces of pasta

2 sprigs of thyme for garnish

a pinch of red pepper flakes

½ cup parmesan


Heat butter over medium-low heat in a large sauce pan. Mince garlic and add to pan. Sauté  until fragrant but not brown, about 1-2 minutes.  Add rosemary and cook for an additional minute or so. Add rinsed and dried spinach, lemon zest and a pinch of red pepper flakes to butter mixture and cook until spinach is wilted.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to spinach mixture . If pasta seems dry, add a small bit of reserved cooking liquid until the pasta seems less dry.

Sprinkle parmesan on top and toss to combine. Serve with an extra parmesan and a bit of fresh thyme. Enjoy!