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Spicy Orzo alla Vodka

Something particularly magical happens when vodka, tomato paste, cream, and Parmesan cheese come together for this classic pasta sauce. Typically served with penne (or, if you’re in New York City, atop pizza), our sauce gets mixed with orzo for a twist that’s best eaten with a spoon. 

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Spicy Orzo alla Vodka

  • Author: Misfits Market

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 4.5-ounce tube Cento tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 box orzo pasta
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
  2. For the sauce, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook until softened and the edges of the onions begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika to the onion mixture. Cook, stirring often, until paste turns a dark rust color, 5 to 6 mins. Deglaze the pot with the vodka, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any brown bits. Reduce heat to low and slowly stream in heavy cream while stirring constantly. Turn off heat.
  4. In the meantime, cook orzo until very al dente. Using a spider strainer, transfer pasta straight into the pan (no need to drain) and reserve 1 cup pasta water. Add ½ cup of pasta water to pan and mix until incorporated. Slowly incorporate 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, mixing constantly, until fully melted and sauce is glossy. Add more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if your sauce is too thick.
  5. Divide pasta among bowls, add a drizzle of olive oil, top with more Parmesan, and black pepper.

Hungry for more? Try one of these other pasta recipes:

One Pot Cheesy Broccoli Pasta

One-Pot French Onion Pasta

Bobby Flay’s Toasted Zucchini Pasta