There seem to be as many variations of vodka sauce as there are Italian restaurants. Some are smooth; others have chunks of tomatoes. Some add peas and prociutto; others add sausage; still others add chicken or shrimp. The same goes for vodka sauce recipes, making it hard to choose one.
Find an updated version of my favorite vodka sauce on my new blog, white plate blank slate.
With more than 100 cookbooks in my collection, I like to "consult my friends" when choosing a recipe for something with a lot of variations. By "consult my friends", I mean that I check with Mario, Giada, Jamie, Ina, etc. I pull out a pile of cookbooks and compare the recipes. The result is inevitably something of my own making, combining the elements of each that I like. Thus the approach that led me to the ultimate vodka sauce...
This one has everything my husband and I love. It's rich and creamy, but has a definite tomato taste, with little bits of tomato throughout. Jeff likes meat, so it has sausage AND prosciutto. I like the color and texture peas add, so you'll find those in there, too. Try this sauce, but make it your own. Prefer chicken? Brown some chunks of chicken instead of the sausage. Like it smooth, use crushed or pureed tomatoes. Just don't forget the cheese...
Another thing that makes this the ultimate rigatoni with vodka sauce is homemade rigatoni. Flour, eggs, semolina and a little water turn into delicious fresh pasta using my new toy: the Kitchenaid Pasta attachment for my stand mixer. It takes 30 minutes start to finish and it's worth every second - but purely optionsal. The sauce rocks even without homemade pasta.
Now, onto the recipe for my ultimate rigatoni with vodka sauce... buon appetito (from this Irish girl!)
4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
4 Sweet Italian sausages
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of Italian seasoning (or oregano if you don't have Italian seasoning)
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup vodka (cheap stuff is fine here, save the Grey Goose for martinis!)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup lowfat milk
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or more to taste)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
Heat a medium nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the prosciutto until just starting to brown around the edges. Transfer to a plate. In the same pan, squeeze the sausage out of the casing into the pan in bite-sized chunks. Discard the casings. Cook the sausage until browned on all sides and cooked through. Drain on a paper towel.
In a large skillet over meidum-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Do not brown. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and continue cooking for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes with their juice and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vodka and simmer 5 minutes. Add the cream, milk, Paremsan cheese, and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is absorbed into the sauce. If the sauce is too light, add more tomato paste. Stir in the prosciutto and cook until the sauce thickens slightly.
Stir in the sausage and peas and cook until heated through. Note: As this cooks, it gets thicker. If it gets too thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of the pasta water to get the desired consistency. Season to taste - with the cheese, prosciutto and sausage you likely won't need salt. But I like to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve tossed with homemade rigatoni (below) or your favorite pasta. Top with extra grated Parmesan cheese.
Homemade rigatoni (optional, of course, but yummy!)
Recipe based on the one from the Kitchenaid pasta press instruction book
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp. water
2 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour OR 2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour PLUS 1/2 cup semolina
pinch of salt
Break the eggs into a glass measuring cup. If the total amount is less than 3/4 cup, add a little water to get to that amount.
To measure the flour, sift the flour first, then measure 2 3/4 cups - this is to ensure the right consistency.
Put the flour, salt and semolina (if using) in the bowl of the stand mixer. Attach the flat beater. Turn to speed 2 and gradually add the eggs and 2 Tbsp. water. Mix 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and exchange the beater with the dough hook. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and knead by hand for 1 minute.
Pass walnut sized pieces of dought though the pasta press using the rigatoni attachment.
Cook in boiling water 4-5 minutes or until cooked through.