This rigatoni alla vodka is one of my favorite Italian comfort dishes!
Rigatoni alla vodka is one of those super special dinners that takes me back to my childhood. I’m pretty certain my when my mom made this for dinner she just opened up a jar of sauce but had she known how simple it was to make I know she would have made it from scratch.
When you make rigatoni alla vodka, the vodka is completely cooked out of the sauce making it totally kid-friendly. In fact, this is a real favorite for a lot of my client’s children! What’s not to love? Creamy tomato sauce tossed with freshly cooked pasta, yum!
I like to top my rigatoni alla vodka with a big dollop of creme fraiche but that is totally optional. Parmesan is another great way to finish it off as well as a few turns of freshly cracked pepper!
Check out my tips below to learn how to incorporate cream into a sauce without splitting or curdling.
How and why you should temper your cream:
When adding cold dairy, in this case, heavy cream, to any warm sauce you need to do so in a way that will prevent the sauce from splitting or curdling. Luckily it’s actually really simple to do with a technique called tempering. Tempering is the process of combining two ingredients of different temperatures ie: cold cream and hot tomato sauce. The two ingredients are slowly combined so they gently come to the same temperature.
To temper the cream into the vodka sauce: pour the cold cream into a bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of the warm tomato sauce into the cream and stir to combine. Repeat with a few more spoonfuls of the warm tomato sauce and then pour the slightly warm cream-tomato mixture into the large pot of sauce. Voila! Creamy tomato sauce that isn’t broken or separated. If you need to re-heat the sauce or just warm it up more do so on a very low temperature.
-Make your sauce vegan– substitute heavy cream for coconut cream and skip the parmesan.
-Switch up the pasta shapes: Any bite-sized pasta shape can be used in this recipe!
-Add some protein– toss in cooked chicken, shrimp or Italian sausage for a heartier meal.
A note about blending the sauce:
I like to blend my vodka sauce until it’s velvety smooth. You can definitely use a regular tabletop blender but for jobs like this, I LOVE my immersion blender. It’s great for blending soups, sauces, and even salad dressings. It’s also so much quicker and easier to clean than a regular blender. If you don’t have one already here’s my favorite: → click here!
Rigatoni alla Vodka
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta
- 1 28oz can of whole or crushed tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 handfull basil
- 1/2 c vodka
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the dried pasta. Cook according to the package's instructions, drain and set aside.
- In a medium-sized saucepot sauté the onion and garlic cloves in the olive oil on medium/low heat. Add a large sprig of basil to the pot and saute until the onions are soft and aromatic about 2 minutes.
- Carefully pour the vodka into the pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce by two thirds. Then, add the tomatoes and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cover. Let the tomato sauce gently simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the stove. Next, remove the basil from the pan and discard. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce together. To incorporate the cream into the sauce pour the cream into a bowl and add in a few tablespoons of the warm tomato sauce stir to combine. Then pour the cream + tomato mixture into the pot.
- Toss the sauce with the cooked pasta. Divide between bowls and top with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
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