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Author Notes: Supposedly a family recipe, but I fear my mom might have stolen it from the back of a Pepperidge Farm bag (kudos to those who get the reference). All the same, my version is a little boozier than most. At least the vodka really brings out the tomato flavour in this creamy, bright orange sauce. This dish is especially pleasing on those winter-y nights when you want something fattening and delicious to keep you warm. Comfort food at its finest. —whatsatomato
- 4 pieces Regular Bacon or Pancetta
- 1 Cooking onion
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 2 teaspoons Crushed Chili Flakes
- teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 Small can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup Basic Tomato Sauce
- 1 cup Vodka, divided
- 1 cup 35% Whipping Cream
- Salt and Pepper
- Dried Penne Rigate or Rigatoni
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 handful Parsley (Italian flat-leaf or Curly)
- Prepare the ingredients for the sauce. Cut your bacon and onion to a medium dice. Those who like their sauces chunkier can use a thicker dice, and those who like their sauces smoother can use a finer dice. Mince the garlic.
- Place the bacon into a frying pan (more surface area the better) over medium-high heat and cook until no longer translucent and slightly browning. Transfer to a plate and remove some of the fat from the pan, leaving roughly a tablespoon behind.
- Bring the pan back to the stove over medium-low heat and add the onion to the pan with the bacon fat and cook until translucent and soft to the bite.
- Add the garlic, crushed chili flakes, and oregano. Lightly salt and pepper the mixture, then stir and let the mixture cook for 5 minutes, maintaining medium-low heat. The bacon fat is likely quite salty so be careful about the amount of salt added. Return the bacon to the pan.
- After everything in the pan has started to caramelize slightly, remove from direct heat and add 1/2 cup of the vodka to the pan. NOTE: Keep a lid handy in case your vodka catches fire, especially on a gas burning stove. If you are like me, you enjoy watching things burn, so you might also light the vodka on purpose. Return pan to the stove and simmer until vodka has evaporated. Do not allow any charring to occur.
- Set heat back to medium-low. Stir in the small can of tomato paste and the basic tomato sauce to the pan once the alcohol has evaporated. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring periodically to encourage even cooking and preventing sticking.
- Stir 1 cup of cream into the sauce, then raise heat to medium. Once the sauce begins to bubble, set to low and allow to sit 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent a skin from forming on the top.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add the other 1/2 cup of vodka (or more, depends on how boozy you like the end product). Continue to cook on low heat. If the sauce is too runny, add more tomato paste and allow to reduce. If the sauce is too thick, add more cream, or water (or vodka!). Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) as needed.
- While the sauce continues to reduce, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne or rigatoni (any lined pasta works well to hold the sauce) and cook according to the instructions on the packaging.
- Strain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the vodka sauce. Give it a toss/stir and grate in about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Stir again.
- Transfer contents of the pan to a serving platter. Chop a handful of fresh parsley and grate more parmesan cheese, then sprinkle atop the platter and serve hot.