Pasta Alla Vodka

WORDS BY SHELBY WILSON

Pasta alla vodka is one of my favorite dishes. Here’s a recipe that you can make at home that will easily rival or surpass your local Italian joint. It’s also a hearty fall meal, especially when paired with a salad and some crusty bread. Pancetta adds a added note of smoky flavor, but you can substitute bacon, Canadian bacon, or just leave it out altogether. Enjoy! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta, optional
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley

PREPARATION:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt to about 7 quarts water). Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium. Add the pancetta, if using, and fry until crispy, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the vodka and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and then fill the can halfway with water and swish it around to loosen up any leftover tomatoes; add a quarter to half of the water to the pan. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. If you prefer your sauce a little looser, go ahead and add the remaining water and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more. Reduce heat to low, add the cream and cook, stirring, until the sauce becomes an even pinkish-rust color, about 1 minute.

4. Stir in the cooked pasta and 1/4 cup cheese; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls, top with additional cheese, if desired, and sprinkle with the oregano and parsley.