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A creamy, rich and decadent Vodka sauce with Pancetta that will make your saucy pasta dreams come true! Rigatoni a la Vodka is surprisingly simple to make at home, so treat yourself and your family. Say “I love you” a la Vodka!
In our family it’s tradition that when on your birthday you get to choose the menu for your special birthday dinner. It’s a tradition steaming from my inherent desire to convey my affection through “Acts of Service” which is my “Love Language“. And my Aquarian husband was the most recent chosen one and as I’m sure you have gathered by now… Rigatoni a al Vodka was his request!
Not just any a la Vodka sauce, a bumped up version that incorporates salty bits of Pancetta, which is basically Italian bacon. And if you’ve never made a vodka sauce with Pancetta, then I’m here to forever change your life, my friend !
In fact, upon reflection, even when we were dating, his request was rigatoni a la vodka! He also usually asks for Veal Saltimbocca, but that’s another post entirely!
And would you believe it, I used to shy away from this dish! I’ve enjoyed Vodka sauce in restaurants of course, and for some reason I always got the impression that it was too complicated to make at home. Perhaps because it seems so sophisticated to artfully infuse a cream based and tomato sauce into one rich, velvety pasta cloak.
I have since realized that I was sorely mistaken! Not only is a vodka sauce incredibly easy to make and requires very few ingredients, but it’s an instant crowd pleaser and a very sneaky way to impress the lucky people gathered around your dinner table! Rigatoni a la Vodka gives the people the impression, “Damn, they really know what they are doing”! But between you and me, it’s just a simple as a basic tomato sauce! Try it and see for yourself!
And big bonus!! You already have the bottle of Vodka out- make yourself a little cocktail while you are at it!!
Ingredients for Rigatoni a la Vodka
You need LESS THAN 10 INGREDIENTS!!
Can of San Marzano tomatoes
Salt & Crushed red pepper flakes
STEPS TO MAKE RIGATONI ALA VODKA
If using whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, for best flavor) then pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth. Otherwise use can of crushed tomatoes. I like to use whole peeled tomatoes when making sauce. Here’s a short little article about why..
Go ahead and set large pot of salted water over medium high heat. Let it come to a rapid boil while preparing vodka cream sauce. Cook pasta til just al dente, according to package instructions.
To begin the vodka sauce, start by melting butter and cooking shallots and pancetta. Do so until shallots are softened and pancetta is browned. Then add garlic and let cook for just under a minute.
Deglaze pan with Vodka and let it boil to reduce the strong alcohol flavor and content.
Add pureed tomatoes, heavy cream, salt and crushed red pepper. Let sauce simmer and thicken on medium- low heat, stirring periodically to prevent burning on the bottom.
When sauce has thickened and looks creamy, turn down heat and stir in grated parmesan cheese. Keep on low to maintain heat.
Drain pasta or use slotted spoon to transfer cooked pasta into skillet with vodka sauce and toss to coat. If you you feel like the sauce is too thick, you can thin it out by adding some of the starchy pasta water. Don’t over do it though- just 1/4 cup at a time. This step is not necessary, and I did not need to add any water.
The BEST Rigatoni a la Vodka with Pancetta
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 Shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup pancetta small dice
- 28 oz can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup Vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmasan plus more for topping
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 lb Rigatoni or Penne
- fresh basil or parsley for garnish
- Set large pot of salted water over medium high heat. Let it come to a rapid boil while preparing vodka cream sauce
- Empty entire can of whole peeled tomatoes with juices into a food processor. Pulse to crush the tomatoes.
- In large skillet melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat. When butter has melted, add shallots and pancetta. Cook until shallots are softened and pancetta is browned, less than 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and saute 30 seconds, just to open up the flavor and be careful not to burn.
- Deglaze pan with vodka and scrape any flavorful brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the vodka boil for 2 minutes to evaporate the strong alcohol content. It should smell much different from when you first added it to the pan.
- Add pureed tomatoes, heavy cream, salt and crushed red pepper. Let sauce simmer and thicken on low, stirring periodically to prevent burning on the bottom.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook, al dente according to package instructions.
- When sauce has thickened and looks creamy, turn down heat and stir in grated parmesan cheese. Keep on low to maintain heat.
- Drain pasta or use slotted spoon to transfer cooked pasta into skillet with vodka sauce and toss to coat. If you prefer to thin out the sauce add some of the starchy pasta water. Just 1/4 cup at a time. This step is not necessary, just a preference.
- Serve hot with fresh basil, parsley or more parmesan cheese if desired.