Lately, I find myself craving carbs. Bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, literally every type of carb. I think it’s my body’s way of saying, “keep me fed so I can stay warm!” Don’t worry, I give in to the cravings every time. Tonight I’m enjoying a giant bowl of spicy pasta alla vodka with bacon pangrattato. If you ever had the traditional pasta alla vodka, think of that dish but with a spicy kick and bacon breadcrumbs on top and that’s what you get here. It’s all kinds of comfort in every bite and I’m loving it.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
There’s just something about pasta tossed in creamy tomato sauce that gets me every time. Well, this spicy pasta all vodka is even better than just regular creamy tomato sauce. First of all, it has vodka. Second, there are red chili flakes and third, there are bacon breadcrumbs! I mean, if that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is.
Let’s start preparing this dish with the bacon pangrattato aka bacon breadcrumbs. If you want the best possible breadcrumbs, use homemade breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you can use Panko and the substitute will be just fine.
Cook the bacon, rendering out the fat. Remove the bacon and all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat. We’re going to set aside the remaining bacon fat to use for the sauce.
Toast the breadcrumbs in that wonderful bacon fat with rosemary, lemon zest, and red chili flakes until golden brown. Add back the crumbled bacon and voila! The bacon pangrattato is done.
Now for the sauce. The sauce is very simple to make, using only tomato paste, vodka, and heavy cream as the main components. I added minced shallots, garlic, red chili flakes, and oregano to give the sauce more pizzaz.
Saute the aromatics in the remaining bacon fat and add the tomato paste with the seasonings. Caramelize the tomato paste for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the vodka and bring it to a simmer, letting the alcohol cook out. This step is important because otherwise, you may just get a little tipsy from the sauce.
Finish the sauce with heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. The sauce will look thick but don’t worry because you’ll add the pasta water (the water you cooked your pasta in) into the sauce. Toss the noodles in the sauce along with grated parmesan and serve the pasta with the bacon breadcrumbs.
If you want to make it even spicier, you can add even more red chili flakes on top. And of course, extra parmesan and fresh basil. This pasta alla vodka hit the spot for me, delivering on flavor and comfort.
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