Rigatoni alla Vodka. Half comfort food, half Italian fine cuisine, it is sure to please a crowd… whether that crowd is a hungry family or the President of the United States himself! The key to a good vodka sauce is the balance between the tang of the tomato and the earthy tones of the vodka. A mix of vegetables and fresh herbs complete the dish. For extra zing, add pancetta.
(The ingredients listed below are for about 6-8 servings)
5-6 tablespoons of olive oil
4 ounces of pancetta
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 cups of unflavored vodka
1 pound of rigatoni noodles
A 28 ounce can of crushed red tomatoes
10 basil leaves, finely chopped
1.5 cups of heavy cream
10 ounces of pre-cooked chicken breast, diced
Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan cheese, for serving
A stove with at least 2 burners, 1 for the vodka sauce and 1 for the rigatoni
A large skillet
A large pot
Cutting boards and knives to cut the onions, garlic, basil
A large spoon to mix the sauce
A can opener for your can of tomatoes
Preparation time: ~10 minutes | Cooking time: ~45 minutes | Total time: ~55 minutes
STEP #1 – OLIVE OIL
Coat the bottom of the skillet with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, by pouring a little in and then rotating the skillet until the bottom is completely covered. Then, heat the olive oil in your large skillet on medium heat until it is shimmering.
STEP #2 – PANCETTA
Pour all of the pancetta into the hot skillet. Shake the skillet in a back in forth motion for 10 seconds. After that, use a spoon to move and spread the pancetta around the skillet for 10 seconds to ensure it is cooked evenly. Then, let it sit on the stove for two minutes or until it starts to crackle.
STEP #3 – ONIONS + GARLIC
Pour all of the chopped onions, as well as the minced. garlic into the skillet with the pancetta. Stir it around with a spoon for about 10 seconds. Pour a splash of olive oil in to make sure the onions and pancetta don’t burn. Cook until the onions are translucent.
STEP #4 – VODKA
Slowly pour the 1.5 cups of vodka into the skillet. Mix everything in the skillet around with your spoon. Reduce for about 3 to 4 minutes, with an occasional stir. If you smell the skillet now, you will smell the vodka evaporating. While you let it reduce, you should start cooking the rigatoni (see step #5)
STEP #5 – RIGATONI
Since the vodka is reducing, it is a good window to start cooking your rigatoni, since you have time where you aren’t too busy, and by the time the Rigatoni is done cooking, you should be ready to mix it in with the vodka sauce. First, fill up your pot with about 4-6 quarts of water, or until the pot is full. Put the pot on a second burner, and add salt to the water. Turn on the stove, and once the water is boiling, dump all of the rigatoni into the water. Then, set a timer for 12 minutes to let the noodles cook. As the noodles cook, you can continue on with the cooking of the sauce, just make sure to stir the noodles occasionally.
Once the 12 minutes are up, refer back to this step no matter where you are to continue on with the rigatoni process: grab your colander and put it in the sink, take your pot of rigatoni off of the stove, and dump it all into the colander, to drain the water. At this point, if you are past step #11 (the final step of making the sauce), go on to step #12. If you aren’t done yet, let the pasta sit in your colander until you are done with step #11.
STEP #6 – TOMATOES
Grab your crushed red tomatoes and pour it all in the skillet with the onions and garlic. Mix everything in the skillet slowly, to once again make sure everything is even. Turn the stove down to the lowest temperature to where you can still see it simmering.
STEP #7 – BASIL
Grab your basil. Pull the stems off and then mince it finely. Take your cutting board with the leaves on it and pour it into the skillet. Finely mix everything in the skillet again so it’s even. If you can still smell the vodka, continue to reduce until you can’t smell it.
STEP #8 – HEAVY CREAM
Pour the heavy cream into the skillet, slowly, and then stir it around so it’s even. Turn down the heat until it is slowly simmering, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
STEP #9 – CHICKEN
Pour the pre-cooked chicken into the skillet, and stir it around so it is evenly spread out across the skillet.
STEP #10 – SALT/PEPPER
Add salt and pepper across the skillet, and stir it around. Then, Add about 3 or 4 shakes of red pepper.
STEP #11 – REDUCTION
To achieve a thickened sauce, turn up the heat and continue to stir an additional 5-10 minutes. This process is up to the individual, but generally taking the time to thicken the sauce also enriches the flavors of the ingredients.
STEP #12 – THE MIXTURE
By this point, your rigatoni should be finished cooking. Add your cooked pasta to the skillet. Hold the colander with 1 hand, and use a spoon to scoop it out and into the skillet. Mix everything again, for about a minute or so, to make sure everything is even. Add one more splash of olive oil on to make sure everything is nice and coated, and keep mixing.
STEP #13 – SERVE AND ENJOY
Now, it is finally done, and it is time to enjoy some of the best pasta you will ever have. Add parmesan cheese and a little pepper to add some more flavor to your meal. Bon Appétit!
If you are done eating and you have leftover pasta that you want to save, putting it in the fridge and reheating it in the microwave is perfectly fine.