Carbone's Famous Spicy Vodka Sauce Was Originally Created As An Afterthought

In the decade since Chef Mario Carbone first opened the doors of his eponymous Italian-American restaurant, Carbone has become quite the celebrity magnet. Foodies around the world know it as the New York City hotspot by a self-made chef who's climbed the ranks and now rubs shoulders with the likes of Lebron James and Jay-Z. Now, whether you live in Greenwich Village or Green Bay, Wisconsin, home cooks across the U.S. can get a taste of one of Carbone's most popular dishes — the spicy vodka rigatoni, no reservation necessary! Jars of Carbone Fine Foods' Spicy Vodka Sauce first hit the market in July and became available nationwide in September. 

Chef Mario Carbone visited the gourmet grocery store Citarella on 6th Avenue in Manhattan to share a bit more about his famous Spicy Vodka Sauce — including the fact that it was originally created as an afterthought. The now-famous spicy vodka rigatoni wasn't added to the menu until late in the creative process. The Carbone team realized there wasn't a vegetarian-friendly option on the menu without requesting an alteration on a dish, and a spicy vodka sauce over rigatoni would fit the bill. The good news for plant-based eaters outside of NYC is that the jarred sauce is vegan as well.

A dairy-free champion for inclusive Italian-American fare

What makes this sauce so special, Chef Carbone explained at the event, is its lack of a dairy component. Fresh dairy isn't shelf stable and can't be jarred, which is why many retail vodka sauces use some kind of powdered milk ingredient, says Carbone. Instead, this spicy vodka sauce omits the dairy component altogether, acting as a base for home cooks to add their own cream or milk. "All you have to do is bring your sauce up to a simmer," explains Carbone. "One jar of sauce, two cups of heavy cream, and two tablespoons of butter ... It's really that simple. We kind of did the work for you, I guess." To keep it vegan, home cooks could use full-fat oat milk instead of heavy cream and use a dairy-free butter substitute.

Pairing this spicy vodka sauce with rigatoni is far from the only way to use it. "You could certainly use this base sauce for lots of things," encourages the chef. "I crack a couple eggs in it, and I make shakshuka in the morning. Abnormal for an Italian household." For foodies curious to taste the accidentally created wonder sauce for themselves, jars are available via the Carbone Fine Foods website.