Rigatoni with Spicy Vodka Sauce

Though definitely not a Piemontese dish, I LOVE Vodka Sauce. I especially love Vodka Sauce with rigatoni. However, many times, whether eating it at a restaurant or buying it in a jar, Vodka Sauce is too mild for my taste. I like it to have a little bit of a kick. I’ve finally mastered making Vodka Sauce at home, and I’m ready to share the recipe. Not only is this pretty easy to prepare, it is a crowd pleaser. Recipe serves 3-4, but can easily be doubled for a crowd.

1 pound box dried rigatoni
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (whole)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup vodka
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/2 – 3/4 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drain the tomatoes in a strainer and set aside. In an oven proof pan over medium high heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion is tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, dried oregano and salt to taste. Stir and saute for a few minutes more. Add the vodka. Let the onions simmer in the vodka for approximately 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onion and vodka while crushing them with your hand. Do this carefully, as they have a tendency to squirt! Add the bay leaf, give the mixture a quick stir and cover the pan. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni to just about al dente. Strain and set aside.

Remove the pan from the oven, discard the bay leaf and let the onions and tomatoes cool for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, using an immersion hand blender, blend the onion and tomatoes until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer the onions and tomatoes to a blender and process until smooth. Pour the tomato and onion sauce back in to the pan and reheat over medium heat. Add the cream to the tomato sauce and stir.  Salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Add the rigatoni to the pan and let the pasta cook in the sauce until al dente. Serve in bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.