Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce
Not only are we suckers for pasta; we also can’t turn down a rich, creamy tomato sauce. Luckily, this recipe for rigatoni with vodka sauce is simple to make at home and the results are—dare we say?—better than a restaurant.
Why vodka, you ask? Well, aside from helping to loosen up the flavorful brown bits at the bottom of the pan (the cheffy term is fond), it also adds a little heat and tames the sweetness of the tomato. While it wouldn’t really be vodka sauce without it, you can skip the ingredient if you don’t have it on hand or you’re feeling lazy—it happens, we would know. Just say it’s tomato cream sauce and call it a day.
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 4.5-ounce tube double concentrated tomato paste
1½ ounces vodka
⅔ cup heavy cream
12 ounces rigatoni
Fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. In a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While finishing the sauce, cook the pasta until very al dente, 7 to 9 minutes or according to the package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.
3. Add the tomato paste to the onion-garlic mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to caramelize (it will change in color from bright red to deep brick red), about 5 minutes. Add the vodka to deglaze the pan, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet and cooking off the alcohol, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream, then adjust the seasoning as needed to taste.
4. Transfer the drained pasta into the sauce and return to medium-low heat. Add about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, stirring to coat the pasta and loosen the sauce. Add more pasta water as needed until the sauce is glossy and coating the noodles. Serve garnished with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.