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.

Pasta alla Vodka

Pasta alla Vodka

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The addition of vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes in this robust pasta sauce made with sautéed pancetta, fresh basil and a touch of cream.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
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