Chef Rocco Pezzano, owner of Sfizio Modern Italian Kitchen in the Desert Ridge area, says that pasta with vodka sauce is making a comeback. “This (dish) used to be popular in the ’80s and then disappeared. Now it’s coming back and the younger generation loves it,” he says.
Pezzano offers a couple of tips: Don’t put oil in the water, because oil coats the pasta and then the sauce won’t adhere; and use a short, thick pasta, such as rigatoni, penne or bowtie. Spaghetti or thin pastas will break down the sauce.
This is an easy recipe to prepare at home and it will take no more than 20-30 minutes, Pezzano says. To make this dish a standout, he suggests buying the best ingredients possible. “Italian food is not that complicated, but ingredients make a big difference.”
4 to 6 servings
1 pound rigatoni or penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces diced pancetta or bacon optional
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
¾ cup vodka
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, San Marzano
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano cheese, plus more for serving
Whipped ricotta for topping
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt to about 7 quarts water). Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or pot over medium. Add the pancetta, if using, and fry until crispy, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the vodka and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and then fill the can halfway with water and swish it around to loosen up any leftover tomatoes; add a quarter to half of the water to the pan. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. If you prefer your sauce a little looser, go ahead and add the remaining water and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more. Reduce heat to low, add the cream and cook, stirring, until the sauce becomes an even pinkish-rust color, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the cooked pasta and ¼ cup cheese; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls, top with additional cheese, if desired, and sprinkle with parsley.