When you want a creamy and comforting dinner, pasta is always a go-to. It’s understandable that you’d get sick of the same standby marinara sauce or simple pesto sauce, since those are delicious but a bit of a bore. That’s when you should look to your freezer, or bar cart, or wherever it is you stash your booze, and look to vodka sauce to add flavor to your worknight dinner.
Vodka sauce is an Italian sauce made from a smooth tomato sauce, vodka, typical Italian herbs and heavy cream, which gives the sauce a distinctive pink color. Adding vodka to the sauce is said to help bring out the other flavors in the sauce, but it’s up for debate whether the addition of vodka is actually needed. Whether or not you use it, you’ll find this dish simultaneously rich and creamy with a sharp, bright flavor from the tomatoes and crushed red pepper.
Vodka sauce is perfect cold weather comfort food, because you can whip up in under a half an hour and as a result, serve it just as easily for a night on the couch as you can for a dinner party.
Garnish the rigatoni with vodka sauce with extra parmesan cheese and basil, or parsley if you need something in a pinch.
- 12 ounces rigatoni
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup vodka
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup cooking water and drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, until the garlic begins to brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka, tomatoes and salt to taste. Replace the skillet to medium heat and simmer, stirring consistently until the alcohol cooks off, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the parmesan and basil, add pasta to sauce and toss to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Season with salt. Serve topped with more parmesan and basil, if desired.