Rigatoni with Pancetta and Vodka-Cream Sauce

Rigatoni with Pancetta and Vodka-Cream Sauce

The next time you're craving pasta with red sauce, try making a vodka-cream sauce instead. It's not so much of a departure that it won't satisfy your craving, but it does make for a tasty change. We like to start the sauce with some sautéed pancetta for subtle added flavor and add a good amount of fresh basil just before serving.

Rigatoni with Pancetta and Vodka-Cream Sauce

  • Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces rigatoni
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 can (28-ounce) chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating

Place a pot of salted water on to boil for the rigatoni.

Sauté the pancetta in a large pan over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add the olive oil, garlic and onion and continue cooking until the onion is soft and translucent. Lower the heat to medium, add the tomatoes, bay leaf and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Stir the vodka into the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the bay leaf.

While the sauce simmers, cook the rigatoni according to the package directions and drain. Stir the cream and basil into the tomato sauce and cook just long enough to heat through and wilt the basil, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and toss to coat with the sauce.

Plate each serving, drizzle on a bit of extra virgin olive oil and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Makes 4 servings

Recipe Notes:
Rigatoni (or penne) alla Vodka is not a traditional Italian dish and it's origins spark a bit of a debate. Despite it's lack of authenticity, vodka sauce does enjoy enduring popularity simply because it tastes so good. The purpose of the vodka is to add a relatively flavorless alcohol to the sauce in order to disperse the alcohol soluble flavors in the tomatoes. The result is robust tomato flavor and a creamy quality that isn't overly rich.

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