I’m not sure a good vodka sauce ever fails to satisfy. It’s one of those dishes that’s equally appropriate to serve to children or to a romantic date. I suppose that’s the true test for calling something comfort food. And that’s exactly what this is, comfort food. Tangy tomatoes cooked with garlic, chili pepper and a hefty glug of vodka, mellowed with a splash of cream and served over pasta. It’s bright and warming, rich and filling. And, on top of all that, it’s incredibly easy and fast to prepare, a great weeknight dinner option. It comes together in about 30 minutes. This recipe is for 2 but can be multiplied for larger parties.

Oh, and one last thing, I’ve always seen vodka sauce recipes that include onion. I’m not opposed to that outright, but I prefer it without. The onions add a bit of sweetness that’s not really necessary when you let the pine nut cream do its job. Leaving them out just allows the pine nut cream to stand out a bit more. If you’re a traditionalist, go ahead and throw in half a diced onion and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic.


Rigatoni alla Vodka

Serves 2

-2 tbsp olive oil + additional
-2 cloves garlic, sliced
-pinch crushed red pepper flakes
-1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, seeded & crushed
-1 tbsp tomato paste
-¼ cup vodka
-¼ cup pine nut cream
-½ lb. rigatoni or pasta of your choice
-sea or kosher salt
-fresh basil

1.    Put a saucepan over medium heat. Add the 2 tbsp olive oil and then the garlic. Sauté for about a minute or until the garlic is fragrant but not browning. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, vodka, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes.

2.    Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente in salted water according to package, aiming to have the pasta finish as the sauce completes its 20-minute simmer.

3.    When the sauce has thickened and the vodka has cooked out, stir in the pine nut cream and salt to taste. Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and stir to combine. Serve immediately and top with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.