The Secret Behind Gigi Hadid's Viral Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce is one of the classic Italian sauces, if classic includes recipes created in the late 20th century, but which may really have originated in Italy and remain extremely popular to this day. Both New York City and Bologna lay claim to Penne alla vodka, but the debate has never been settled (via Italian Enclaves). Wherever it originated, the sauce been successful ever since. Its popularity may stem from its simple list of ingredients that belie its elusive deliciousness. It's something most people can make at home but is still a popular choice in restaurants.

While the pasta dish is a perennial favorite, vodka sauce popularity has surged due to viral videos that have breathed new life into this simple sauce. 2020 saw a surge of interest in pantry cooking, as well as an unexpected video by Gigi Hadid sharing her recipe for Spicy Vodka Pasta – a post some people believe was an attempt to distract from her pregnancy announcement, per Grazia.  Hadid's post went viral, and her recipe has spawned many imitators. It's not all hype, either: There is something truly special about her recipe.

Tomato paste makes the pasta

All vodka pasta uses tomatoes, heavy cream, and vodka. And lest you think the vodka is just a gimmick, it's really there for a reason — both to thicken the sauce and also as a flavor enhancer (per Paesana). In addition to the basic ingredients, garlic and onions may be sauteed in oil before getting started with the tomatoes, cream, and vodka. Gigi Hadid also adds chili flakes, which is what makes it spicy, and parmesan cheese and basil at the end (via Pop Sugar). 

Hadid's "Spicy Vodka Pasta" admittedly does not have any vodka because the model did not have any on hand. But while Hadid's pasta forgoes the vodka, she keeps in the cream and tomatoes (per Pop Sugar). Her recipe doesn't use just any old tomatoes, however; it's tomato paste she incorporates into her sauce. This brings us to her genius maneuver: Hadid instructs you to cook the tomato paste down so that it browns and caramelizes a bit. Tomato paste, being thicker than fresh or even canned tomatoes, caramelizes more naturally. That caramelization adds another layer of flavor that takes the pasta to another level, even without the vodka.