February 7, 2011

Rigatoni alla Vodka

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The tomato sauce alla vodka is likely one of Bryan's favorite meals. It's takes the deliciousness of a traditional tomato sauce and amps it up, adding some complexity in flavor from the vodka and dialing down the acidity with the addition of cream. Plus, you get to light it on fire, which makes it especially fun to make.

Fire. No joke. 

This is a very traditional alla Vodka sauce, with strips of proscuitto simmered with garlic and vodka prior to the addition of the cream. It's another recipe from Mario Batali's android app, but is quite similar to most recipes for this dish you'll find out there. 

Making the Dish
What You'll Need
Herbie recommends Barilla Rigatoni. 
It's what the real Italian cats eat. 
1/2 lb rigatoni
1 cup marinara sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 oz prosciutto, sliced
1 tsp chile flakes
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano

The sauce takes virtually no time to make, assuming you have your tomato sauce already done. We'll assume you do (or that you're using one from a jar). So start by getting some water boiling, salting it slightly, and then dropping in your rigatoni. You'll aim to cook this to 1 minute shy of the package directions. 

The prosciutto cut into long strips with nice thin slices of garlic. 

Then get the sauce started while the rigatoni is cooking. Get two or three cloves of garlic and a generous amount of prosciutto and slice them up. We prefer long strips for the prosciutto but however you want to prepare it is up to you. Slice the garlic thin and flat so that it will not burn as easily while cooking. 

Prosciutto and garlic simmering in olive oil. Do this briefly until the prosciutto renders its fat. 

Toss them into some hot olive oil and saute for a few minutes until the prosciutto starts to render its fat but before the garlic has started to turn its color. Add in about a quarter cup of vodka (enough so that it covers the entire pan and all your ingredients, but not enough that it's very deep. You want it to just cover your ingredients).

Smirnoff vodka: not just for boozing. 
It will start to sputter in the heat. Very carefully, with a very clear surface area and the bottle of vodka as far away from the pan as possible, light the vodka with a flame. It will flame up so be sure to keep your hand and face away!

Vodka + fire = more fire. Don't try this at home. 

Shuffle the pan back and forth so that everything gets stirred around and nothing gets too charred while the vodka is flaming and so that all of the alcohol gets burnt up.

This should last for about 15 - 30 seconds at the most. If it goes on longer than this you probably put in too much vodka. Blow it out before it burns everything and let the rest of the vodka cook down. 

More fire. We probably used a bit too much vodka this time. On the plus side - lots of pictures of fire!

Once the fireworks are over, add in about one cup of heavy cream or half and half, and stir everything around. Bring the heat down to a simmer and let it thicken for a few minutes.

Flame kissed prosciutto and garlic have found a nice, new home simmering in cream. 

Finally, add in half a cup to one cup of your tomato sauce. You can adjust the amount of tomato sauce to your desired ratio of tomatoeyness. To finish, add a touch of red pepper flakes, and then season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Vodka sauce! Ready to go. 

By this point, your rigatoni should be done. Take it directly from your pot and drop it into the sauce. Add in about a quarter cup of pecorino romano cheese, and stir it all together, with the pan still over low-medium heat. If the sauce needs to be any looser, you can add a touch of the pasta water. 

Rigatoni thrown into our vodka sauce...an excellent combination waiting to happen. 
The Result

Take a scoopful of the rigatoni and put it in a warm bowl. Garnish with parsley or basil and a touch of olive oil and grated cheese.

This is a great and very simple version of this dish. While other recipes may call for additions like flour or basil or butter or what have you, this is really all you need to enjoy delicious, restaurant quality rigatoni alla vodka in your own home.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!


  1. I love this dish - but I would burn my house down with my kitchen set up! Fun photos. Smart cat.

  2. Looks absolutely perfect! I can't wait to try it! I'll have to post a pic of Braveheart & link back to you! Grazie!

  3. Thanks both of you!

    Creating Amazing Meals, let us know how it goes!

  4. yuuuum. just made it today!

  5. sgao - that's great! thanks for letting us know, and glad you liked it!

  6. Going to make this tonight... Would be sweet if there was a "text ingredients" button

  7. Hey Daniel - That's a good idea! Probably beyond my technical ability at this time but I'll see if I can find a solution. Hope the pasta comes out good for you tonight!

  8. Made this tonight but added a chicken breast cut up into bite-sized pieces - our version of Utica's vodka chicken riggies...yum!


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