Tonight I decided to take a tiny step outside of my comfort zone and prepare a smoky pasta alla vodka with beef recipe. I’ve never really had pasta all vodka before, and have generally avoided it because I always thought it’d be a bit too creamy for my preferences.
This smoky pasta alla vodka with beef is a riff on a classic American dish. We used smoked paprika to add smoky undertones to this easy pasta dish. Although this is certainly not an authentic take on the classic pasta all vodka, we thought it was really delicious, hearty, and had loads of flavor!
Want to make this a bit leaner? Try it with ground turkey or ground chicken! If you’re looking to try a vegetarian version, use minced mushrooms instead of ground beef!
Smoky Pasta alla Vodka with Beef
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- Salt pepper, crushed red pepper, and smoked paprika to taste
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 ounces tomato paste
- ¼ cup vodka
- 1 14.5- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- 16 ounces rigatoni or penne or any other tubular pasta
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water plus more if necessary
- 3/4 cup heavy cream plus more if desired
- ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh black pepper
- First, peel and mince the garlic and then peel and small-dice the onion and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water before draining. Note: I only used ½ cup but be sure to reserve a little extra in case your sauce is too thick.
Brown the Beef:
- In a large pot or deep skillet (large enough to later hold the pasta), heat the oil over medium high until very hot. Add the beef and season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and a few shakes of smoked paprika. Cook, breaking up the beef with your spoon until cooked through and well-browned. Transfer the cooked beef to a bowl and blot out any excess oil in the skillet, if any. Leave about a teaspoon of fat in the skillet.
Cook the Aromatics:
- Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onions and cook for about 7 minutes until they begin to turn light golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 45 seconds until fragrant. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and 1-2 shakes of smoked paprika.
- Add the tomato paste to the skillet and coat the onions and garlic completely in the paste. Cook, stirring often, until the paste begins to deepen in color, about 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat to medium high and cook an additional minute or two.
- Deglaze the pot with the vodka, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Continue stirring the vodka into the sauce until smooth and completely incorporated. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the reserved cooked beef and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, pepper, a bit more crushed red pepper and sugar if desired.
Prepare the Cream:
- To the ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water, add the heavy cream to warm it up. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the simmering sauce, stirring as you incorporate it. Continue stirring until completely incorporated and glossy. Slowly stir in the grated cheese in increments until completely incorporated.Taste and season to your preferences.
Finish the Pasta:
- If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit more pasta cooking water to thin it out. Once the vodka sauce is to your liking, add the cooked rigatoni and toss to coat. The pasta should be completely glossy and evenly coated with the sauce. Remove from heat.
- Divide the pasta and sauce between shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved parmesan, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and fresh black pepper to taste. Enjoy!