Homemade Spicy Fusilli (Jon & Vinny’s Inspired)

A healthy twist on a classic LA dish— swaps out heavy cream and butter for Greek yogurt and olive oil… but don’t worry, you still get to light your sauce on fire!

I went to college in Los Angeles (fight on!) and one of the dishes that haunts my taste buds to this day is the Spicy Fusilli from Jon & Vinny’s. Imagine my delight upon discovering the recipe posted online (thanks LA Mag)… only to quickly discover it had 2.5 cups of heavy cream and 2 cups of butter. Now, I still say ANYONE in L.A. (myself included) who eats dairy & gluten should go to Jon & Vinny’s to have this dish (as well as their pizzas and bolognese). However, for those looking for a slightly less indulgent weekend project, might I introduce to the Carmel Kama’aina take (which I should note uses rotini not fusilli). It’s simpler (fewer steps and ingredients) and replaces the butter and heavy cream with olive oil and Greek yogurt. And it’s still decadent and delicious! Even better? You get to light a match into your pasta sauce! Hello thrill factor!


(Serves 2-4 depending on appetites*)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ~12 oz tomato paste*
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 – 1 tbs red pepper flakes (depending on desired spiciness)
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 1 pound rotini, fusilli, or preferred pasta*
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil 
  • Fresh parmesan & additional red chili flakes for topping


  1. Prep first! Chop your garlic and shallot and get all ingredients out — you’ll be moving quickly!
  2. Boil water for your pasta and cook according to instructions as you go about making the pasta sauce in the below steps. HOWEVER: once the pasta is cooked, scoop out and set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the noodles.
  3. In a large non-stick soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium for 1 minute. Add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes, before adding vodka
  4. Onto the WOW factor! Using a match or lighter, carefully light sauce with a match. Stand back, and allow flame to die off on its own as the alcohol evaporates. 
  5. Once the fire is out, turn the heat down to medium-low, add the Greek yogurt, stir in to incorporate into sauce, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add in the red pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Stir, turn down the heat to low, and cover till you’re ready to add pasta.
  6. Pour in pasta and toss in sauce. Your sauce is going to be pretty thick, so add your reserved pasta water to thin the sauce till it’s your desired consistency (I only did 3 tbs because I wanted a thicker sauce). Taste the sauce and add any additional spiciness (red chili flakes) or salt to taste.
  7. Serve topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!!


On serving size: If you want fewer portions– make less pasta and save the sauce you don’t use for your desired portion size for future use! It will freeze very well or keep in the fridge for 3-5 days 🙂

On tomato paste: Tomato paste can sizes vary, and in my opinion there is nothing worse than awkwardly having 1/4 of a can leftover. I used 2, 6 0z cans (so 12 0z of tomato paste), but make the recipe flexible so you can adapt based on the size of your cans. So, if you have 4.5 oz cans, for example, use 3– it’s totally fine to have 13.5 oz of tomato paste! You’ll be tasting at the end and can add in more spiciness if needed to offset the tomato taste, or more reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce.

What am I listening to as I make this?Closer to You” by Amo Amo

What can I learn while I make this? The difference between fusilli and rotini! Do you remember being little and told not to use Wikipedia for book reports because it’s publicly sourced and can be wrong? Well, fusilli vs. rotini is a perfect example of this. Wikipedia claims “rotini” is the American term for “fusilli” whereas most other websites maintain they’re two distinct (though very similar) spiral pastas. Key differences? Fusilli tends to be different small strands of pasta spiraled together (whereas rotini is one), and rotini tends to be smaller and more tightly wound than fusilli. Feel free to weigh in with your take in the comments! But, fear not, for our purposes, either will work for this recipe.

What if I want an amazing pasta but not this one? Don’t worry– I won’t be offended! Check out these other ideas below:

Want more Carmel Kama’aina content? Follow me on Instagram. All my latest recipes, poems, and behind the scenes tricks are published first on Instagram. Sneak a peek below:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s