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.
Spicy Pasta Alla Vodka with Bacon Pangrattato
- 4 strips bacon
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
Spicy pasta all vodka
- 2 shallots minced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 12 ounces tomato paste
- ½ cup vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces pasta
- ¼ cup grated parmesan plus extra
- fresh basil for garnish
- Make the bacon pangrattato. Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the strips of bacon and cook until browned on both sides. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain the fat, leaving 2 tablespoon in the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. In the same pan, add the breadcrumbs, rosemary, lemon zest, and red chili flakes. Toss to coat in the bacon fat and continue to toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and add back to the breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Prepare the spicy pasta alla vodka sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat into a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and garlic and saute for 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add the red chili flakes, oregano, and tomato paste and continue to cook until the tomato paste is caramelized and darkened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the vodka and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup heavy cream and stir to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the noodles. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add both the water and noodles to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
- Portion the pasta into bowls and top with the bacon pangrattato. Finish with fresh chopped basil and extra parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.
**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 tablespoon 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.
For more pasta inspiration check out this rigatoni with butternut squash and spicy sausage!