Pasta alla Vodka
Although Pasta alla Vodka is actually not an authentic Italian dish, it's popular simply because it tastes so good. Vodka is a relatively flavorless addition to the sauce, but its alcohol content works to release extra flavor in the tomatoes. Combined with the sautéed pancetta, fresh basil and a touch of cream it produces a richly flavored red sauce with a smooth, light, creamy quality.
- 12 ounces penne, rigatoni or ziti
- 6 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 can (28-ounce) chopped tomatoes, undrained
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
- 1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil
- Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
- Place a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- Sauté the pancetta in a large pan over medium-high heat until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan, then add the olive oil.
- Add the onion and continue cooking until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
- Lower the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Bring to a slow simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the vodka, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- While the sauce simmers, cook and drain the pasta according to the package directions.
- Add the cream and basil to the tomato sauce, then combine with the pasta. To serve, plate individual servings and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.