Make this easy smoked chilli and vodka pasta recipe this week

Whether you’re cooking for friends or enjoying a solo dinner at home, it’s always helpful to have a great pasta recipe in your arsenal.

This might be a cheesy offering, or a more traditional meaty one – or perhaps you’ve recently been inspired to add vodka to your pasta?

Despite being a staple in Italian restaurants for decades, the latter has taken centre stage over the past couple of years – even since Gigi Hadid’s viral recipe, which made penne alla vodka one of 2020’s most popular dishes.

So much so, that Heinz and Absolut have even jumped on the trend by launching a new pasta sauce.

If you want to make your own at home, we’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

Food writer Bre Graham’s recipe for smoked chilli and vodka rigatoni is sweet and rich – with a hint of acidity and a kick of spice.

It’s ideal for a quick and easy carby dinner – and is perfect enjoyed with a great glass of wine.

Bre says: ‘The sauce is greater than the sum of its parts and comes together in the time it takes to boil the pasta. 

‘The classic combination of garlic and onion is the root of many sauces, but here they’re finely grated to add a base note to the intensity of the sweet tomato purée and richness of the cream. 

‘The vodka mellows any hint of acidity to create a real star of a sauce. The best part though is the smoked chilli – just a teaspoon shifts this to the sort of dish you want to cook five nights a week, and continuously crave.’

Ready to give it a go? The easy recipe can be found below.

Smoked chilli and vodka rigatoni recipe


● 250g (9oz) dried rigatoni 

● 15g (1 tbsp) unsalted butter 

● 1⁄2 white onion, finely grated 

● a pinch of sea salt, plus extra to cook the pasta 

● 4 garlic cloves, finely grated 

● 3 tbsp tomato purée (tomato paste) 

● 1 tsp smoked dried chilli flakes 

● 75ml (5 tbsp) vodka 

● 100ml (61⁄2 tbsp) double (heavy) cream 

● 1 handful of basil leaves, finely sliced, plus extra leaves to serve 

● 1 handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve


1. Cook the rigatoni in a big pot of boiling salted water following the packet instructions. 

2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a deep sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, then add the tomato purée and smoked chilli flakes. Turn the heat down a little, stir and cook gently for 2 minutes. 

3. As the tomato paste caramelises and starts to darken in colour and stick to the bottom, pour in the vodka and stir to deglaze the pan. Let the vodka cook off and reduce before stirring in the cream. The sauce should be smooth, creamy and deep orange in colour. Stir in the basil and parmesan. 

4. Drain the rigatoni, reserving 4 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta and cooking water to the sauce and toss to combine. 

5. Serve the pasta topped with extra basil leaves and grated parmesan or, for a total delight, a ball of burrata. Eat immediately and enjoy. 

This recipe is from Bre Graham’s book Table for Two: Recipes for the Ones You Love.

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