rigatoni alla vodka – smitten kitchen

Note: 1/2 cup tomato paste is 2/3 of a 6-ounce can or all of a 4.5-ounce tube.

  • 1 pound dried rigatoni
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream, to taste
  • A few basil leaves, chopped, to finish
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, to serve

Cook pasta in well-salted water to al dente, about 1 minute shy of doneness. Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta.

In your empty pasta pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon for a moderate kick), and cook until shallots are softened but not brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add vodka and cook, stirring up anything stuck, until vodka disappears. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tomato paste is one shade darker. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water, scraping up any stuck tomato paste, stirring until the mixture becomes a sauce. Season it now — I add just about 2 teaspoons kosher salt and many grinds of black pepper — simmer for 2 minutes. Add cream; I begin with 1/2 cup and then add more, a splash at a time, until I get the shade of orange/pink that I am craving.

Add drained pasta to sauce and toss to coat and adding last 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, a splash at a time, as needed to loosen the sauce. Cook pasta and sauce together for 1 minute.

Sprinkle with basil and scoop into bowls, garnishing each with parmesan or pecorino and extra red pepper flakes, to taste. Eat immediately.

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