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Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce

Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce

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Before you convince yourself there's no way that a little onion, tomato paste, and cream can come together in mere minutes to make one of the best homemade pasta sauces you've ever had, hear us out. Better yet, make this recipe for yourself. Just try and use double-concentrated tomato paste, which packs more flavor than the standard stuff.


  1. Fill a stock pot or other large pot three-quarters full with water and heat over high. Toss in a handful of salt and bring to a boil while you do your other prep.

  2. Peel and finely chop 1 onion.

  3. Firmly smash 4 garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife and remove peel.

  4. Grate 4 oz. Parmesan on the smallest holes of the box grater.

  5. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium (position it next to pot of water). Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, 5–7 minutes.

  6. Add entire 4.5-oz. tube tomato paste and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and stir until paste evenly coats onion. Continue to cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, 5–7 minutes.

  7. Add 2 oz. vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping bottom of pot. Reduce heat to low.

  8. Using a heatproof glass measuring cup, scoop about ¼ cup boiling water from pot, then add ¾ cup heavy cream to measuring cup (this brings up the temperature of the cream so it won’t break when you add it to the pot).

  9. Slowly add warmed cream to Dutch oven, stirring constantly, until a smooth sauce forms. Remove from heat.

  10. Add 1 lb. rigatoni to pot of boiling salted water and cook according to package instructions until al dente. About 1 minute before the timer goes off, use heatproof measuring cup to scoop up about 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Heat Dutch oven over low.

  11. Using a spider, transfer rigatoni to Dutch oven along with any water that’s piggybacking on the pasta.

  12. Add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to Dutch oven and stir to incorporate, then gradually add half of Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt cheese. You should have a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta. Season with salt and add a splash more pasta cooking liquid to thin sauce, if needed.

  13. Divide pasta among bowls. Top with remaining cheese, dividing evenly. Drizzle with more oil, then tear basil leaves over.

Related Video

Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce

Reviews SectionDid this with Minttu (perppermint liquer), because that's what I had at home. I do not recommend using Minttu.TureTureTureSweden07/07/20I loved this so much! A new favourite and surprisingly easy. Definitely recommend!PetaCatherineAustralia06/28/20I have had this recipe bookmarked for a while and finally made it tonight. Why did I wait so long??? Absolutely delicious and super simple to make. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. I think I only used about half the cheese but other than that followed the recipe and it came out perfectly. Love the tip about adding hot water to the cream so it doesn't break! This is definitely going in the favorites section of my recipe book.AnonymousHilliard, Ohio06/18/2010/10 sis. Have been making this constantly and it's a hitlowkeylikestocookLos Angeles06/13/20Family favorite.. So creamy and sumptuous..AnonymousBiarritz, France05/25/20I used rum instead of vodka because I didnt have vodka and it tasted great! Put some chunky burrata pieces on top and it was pure heaven!This was really delicious and easy! I followed the recipe exactly except the double tomato paste and it was delish! It comes together really quickly so I suggest you have your cheese pre grated!AnonymousKansas City05/17/20mcthildeParis, France05/14/20omg, this is like, NEXT LEVEL amazing! used it as the sauce for chicken riggies. easy to make and is way better than riggies-specific recipes I've used in the past. I reduced the garlic by a clove and added roasted bell peppers once the sauce was finished, before adding the rigatoni. my dad added some sauteed white button mushrooms to his, as well as some hot sauce to turn up the heat.speaking of heat, this sauce was the perfect level of spice for me. barely any initially in your mouth, but you feel a nice burn in your chest after a couple bites. Definitely adding this to our go-to dinners.OccasionallyOmniscientOswego, NY05/11/20This is one of my favourite BA recipes! I cook two spicy Italian sausages in the dutch oven, breaking them up to little bits. In a pan, I quickly saute some sliced mushrooms. I add both to the sauce just before I add the pasta and it is divine!! Super easy mid-week meal and makes enough for leftovers.skharpoCalgary, Canada05/11/20OMG! This was really good and easy to make!anmigaMoscow, Russia05/10/20Insanely rich and creamy!!! we made it with ground beef and cheese filled tortellini. absolutely delicious. crowd pleaser for sure.elenaleinenSaskatchewan, Cananda05/08/20Insanely delicious. Followed the recipe exactly except I added more salt (a bit with the onions, again with the cream). I absolutely loved it! Thanks Claire :)AnonymousSeattle 05/04/20Delicious and easy to make! I used grana padano instead of parmesan and I didn't have any basil. Next time I'll cut the garlic a little smaller.I absolutely love this recipe and it is now a part of my weekly meal rotation. I alternate between shallots and onions, use garlic and have forgotten it as well, and played with the amount of vodka and red pepper - always with great results. The key is letting the alcohol cook off or use a little less vodka if you find your final product too bitter. I also cook the onions and garlic in butter instead of olive oil. After everything is all put together I usually add a little bit of salt and its perfect.AnonymousDenver, CO04/28/2010/10. This sauce was incredible. I used delallo rigatoni and used shallots instead of onion.I cook a ton and my husband said this was his favorite thing I've ever made. Will make again and again!AnonymousSun Valley04/27/20Loved this! So easy to make, I added pancetta for a little meaty kick and it was fantastic. Would absolutely recommend for a quick dinner, only took about 30-40 mins total (including all prep).AnonymousPhiladelphia, PA04/27/20Love! So simple, I make it at least once a week now. Sometimes I sub white wine for vodka and its still fabulous and fragrant.wellwellwellCanada04/22/20So flavourful and easy! The key is definitely adding the pasta water at the end. Thanks Claire, I WOULD die for you <3So so so good! Made this several times, and it always turns out fantastic.AnonymousNew York04/18/20I've made this recipe multiple times and really love it! So easy to adjust if you like it more creamy, more tomato-y, to add veggies, whatever you like. It's part of my regular rotation now. Highly recommend!I didn't know what to expect going into this but I really liked it! I subbed a combo of skim milk and half & half for the heavy cream because that's what I had but it totally worked. When I tasted the sauce on it's own I didn't love it but the pasta water and parmesan really brought it together! I loved the warm heat of the chili flakes and the chunks of garlic.Tomato paste and I have an interesting relationship: I love how simple it is but feel like no matter how long I cook it, its too bitter. I added a bit of sugar, but overall great recipe. Maybe next time I will cut down on paste to avoid needing sugar. So simple though, which I loveAnonymousNew Jersey04/11/20I feel incredibly guilty writing this but it really wasn't my cup of tea. I played with the recipe twice but something about it was bitter to me and needed more sweetness/creaminess. I love vodka sauce so I am a little sad that it still isn't that easy to make.AnonymousYonkers, NY04/09/20My favorite go-to recipe when I’m craving pasta a la vodka! It’s so easy to follow... I’ve made it 5 or 6 times now & can make it from memory. I would definitely use a smaller rigatoni for this. Also adding a bit of ricotta on top of the basil & olive oil is SO unbelievably good!AnonymousPHOENIX, AZ04/07/20

Easy Vodka Sauce Pasta – Best Homemade Vodka Sauce Rigatoni Pasta Recipe – Dinner – Lunch – Quick – Simple

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Easy Vodka Sauce Rigatoni Pasta

You can’t go wrong with this quick and delicious vodka sauce rigatoni pasta.

Easy homemade vodka sauce over rigatoni pasta noodles.

This vodka sauce recipe is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Tasty and delish vodka cream sauce with pasta noodles.

Learn how to make vodka sauce with this quick recipe.

Yummy homemade vodka sauce for your rigatoni noodles.

Don’t have rigatoni noodles you can use penne pasta noodles.

Best rigatoni all vodka sauce you will make over and over.

Quick dinner idea for those busy weeknights, Sunday night dinner or romantic dinner for 2.

Spicy Garlicky Vodka Sauce

Spring is here, but it feels like this beautiful season is being seen and felt through a kaleidoscope. Flowers are blooming, life is bursting from the earth, but it’s not the same Spring we’ve always known. It’s different, it’s distant, and it’s unsettling.

Stumbling through this bizarre alternative universe means there’s no escaping anxiety. It’s always hiding in some corner of our homes, so I’ve been seeking comfort instead of fixating on the uncertainty brought on by this strange new world. It’s those little comforts that help keep the enemy at bay, and I’ve chosen a mighty weapon to aid my defense, and that weapon is PASTA.

Chopping a heap of garlic, crushing tomatoes between my fingers, a generously filled wine glass within arm’s length, grating parmesan, watching the steam leap off the noodles as you lift them out of their salty jacuzzi, scraping butter over thick crusty slices of sourdough - all of these things bring me back to solid ground.

This recipe is easy, made up of mostly pantry staples, has built-in leftovers, and delivers one of the most rewarding and indulgent meals. So take a deep breath, pinch a few flowers off the budding tree in your yard, fill up your wine glass, and let’s make some pasta.

You’re going to want to use really good canned tomatoes - if you can find Bianco Dinapoli SNATCH THEM UP. They’re the best, hands down. I will go to the ends of the earth to hunt them down. They’re so delicious I can eat them straight out of the can.

Alison Roman made me embrace anchovies. I don’t know how she did it, but she did.

Garlicky Spicy Vodka Sauce

8 large cloves of garlic (or 10 to 12 medium cloves), chopped

1 large yellow onion (or two small), chopped

4 to 8 Calabrian chili peppers packed in oil, minced (can sub with 1 to 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 parmesan rind (just need 4 to 6 inch piece of rind) *optional

½ cup freshly grated parmesan (or ¾ cup if no rind)

1 pound rigatoni, or any pasta you have on hand

Heat olive in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until garlic becomes golden and onion becomes translucent - about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add Calabrian chili peppers (or red pepper flakes) and anchovies. Start with 4 peppers (or 1 teaspoon), but add more to taste. I like some heat, so I typically use 8 peppers (or 2 teaspoons). Cook until anchovies dissolve into skillet, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in tomato paste, cook for a couple minutes or until fragrant, then pour in the vodka. Stir to get all the good bits off the bottom of the pan, and be careful to not get too drunk off the vodka steam as it cooks down. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until vodka reduces by half.

Then add can of crushed tomatoes. Fill empty can halfway with water, getting all tomato residue left in can, and add to skillet. Add whole tomatoes and crush each tomato - this is fun to do by hand, but you can use your spoon to get the job done in the skillet. Pour in any tomato juices left in the can to the sauce. Stir to combine, then add in a parmesan rind if you have one, season again with salt and pepper, and lower heat to medium low and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until it thickens and all the flavors meld together perfectly.

During the last 10 minutes the sauce simmers, prepare the noodles according to packaging in seasoned water. Cook them until al dente - no mushy noodles!

After sauce is done simmering, remove parmesan rind and stir in heavy cream and parmesan. Use ½ a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese if you cooked with a rind, and ¾ cup of cheese if you didn’t have a rind. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

You might notice you have A LOT of sauce. That’s right, there’s built-in leftovers with this recipe! So, before you add noodles, remove half the sauce, put in a sealable container, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days (if you can last that long before finishing it off).

After you put aside half the sauce, add the noodles to the remaining sauce in the pan, toss to coat, and then serve! Grate some fresh parm on top, if you have fresh basil or oregano that’s another delicious topping.

Get your hands on some wine (I recommend Fossil and Fawn’s Pinot Noir) and EAT.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 pound uncooked penne pasta
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente drain.

In large skillet, heat oil over moderate heat. Remove casing from sausage and add to skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat, until brown. Add garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring until garlic is golden brown.

Add tomatoes and salt bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Add vodka and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and add pasta, toss for 1 minute. Stir in fresh parsley and serve!

Penne alla Vodka Recipe

Why It Works

  • Using a hefty dose of tomato paste gives the sauce the deeply sweet base notes it needs, while a small can of tomatoes adds a brighter layer of flavor.
  • Very gently cooking the onions and garlic in butter makes them very sweet and mild, without any harsh onion flavor remaining in the final sauce.
  • Adding the vodka to the sauce when there are only a handful of minutes left of cooking time ensures the sauce is neither overly boozy nor absent of the flavor-enhancing effects of the vodka.

A staple of Italian-American red-sauce restaurants across the United States since the 1980s, vodka sauce has a history as opaque as its densely creamy orange hue. Was it a famous Italian actor who invented it? A '70s restaurant in Bologna? A Columbia University student? Or did it come from Russia? Meh, as much as I love delving into the history of famous dishes, I can live with this mystery remaining unsolved.

What's cool about vodka sauce isn't who came up with it, but rather how delicious it is. And yes, the vodka really does matter here. We know, because we've done the tests before. Several years ago, Kenji delved into the matter of whether vodka sauce really needed the vodka, and the answer was an unequivocal yes (though the sauce is delicious without it, too).

In a series of blind tastings, Kenji found that the hit of neutral booze enhanced the fruity aroma of the sauce while bringing a background heat and sharpness that balanced out the richness of the sauce.

He also zeroed in on what he found to be the ideal amount of vodka—about one quarter cup per quart of sauce, simmered for about seven minutes before serving. My testing aligned with his, and so that's what this recipe calls for (to get the timing right, the vodka is added about a minute before the pasta is combined with the sauce, and then it's all cooked together for another few minutes by the time cheese is stirred in and the pasta is finished, you'll be pretty close to the seven-minute mark).

That said, personal tastes vary, so if you want a boozier sauce, you can always add a little splash of vodka right before serving to bring the alcohol to the forefront.

What else makes this sauce great? Well, if you look at enough vodka sauce recipes out there, you'll find that some of them use a very large volume of tomato paste as the only tomato element in the sauce, while others go for canned tomatoes (sometimes with a couple tablespoons of tomato paste added for depth).

I tested both methods and liked aspects of each. A tomato paste–heavy vodka sauce has wonderful fruity depth that, to me, gives the sauce part of its signature flavor. But even a full tube of paste combined with a whole lot of cream can't quite make enough sauce for four servings, and leaves the onion flavor too dominant. Canned tomatoes, on the other hand, provide a brighter, fruitier tomato character, but none of that tomato paste depth a couple tablespoons of paste aren't enough to compensate for that.

My solution: Use both an entire tube (or can) or tomato paste, plus a small can of whole peeled tomatoes. Combined, they yield a sauce that's nuanced and layered, with richness, depth, and brightness. It's a winner.

As for the pasta? Most recipes call for penne, and it's an option here, but at Serious Eats we love this sauce even more with rigatoni.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, spread the ricotta on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese on top of the ricotta. Set aside.

When the pasta is done, drain it and let it cool slightly.

In the pan, arrange the rigatoni standing on their ends until the pan is filled. Pour the sauce over the pasta and spread it evenly over the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top of the sauce.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan, doming it slightly to avoid the cheese. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly brown and bubbly.

Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the pie into slices and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh parsley and basil.

Tips on how to make vodka sauce pasta

Want the secret to Italian grandmother style vodka sauce pasta? Simmer the sauce. For 1 hour! You won’t see a lot of 1 hour simmers here on A Couple Cooks. Because our core passion is fast and easy dinner recipes. But guess what? Even more than fast and easy, we’re obsessed with flavor. This vodka sauce pasta is so seriously full of flavor, it’s worth every second of that simmer. And what says “you’re special” more than a 1 hour simmered pasta?

Here’s another secret. Because this pasta sauce is mostly hands-off, it’s actually an easy recipe. Here are some tips on how to make vodka sauce pasta:

  • The only thing you’ll need to cut is garlic! If you need to brush up on your knife skills, here’s How to Mince Garlic.
  • Use quality vodka: and don’t worry! It’s safe for kids. You’ll want to use the good stuff here! Don’t worry, the alcohol cooks away, leaving a tangy back-end flavor.
  • Simmer with a halved onion. To get onion flavor without onion in the sauce, you’ll simply simmer the sauce with a halved onion: then remove it after the simmer.
  • Fresh basil is a must. Trust us. The Italians know best!
  • Blend, then melt in the Parmesan cheese (not cream). Some vodka sauces use heavy cream, but the Parmesan carries the show here.

How To Make The Ultimate Rigatoni Ala Vodka

Creamy, tangy, flavorful, and oh-so-satisfying, this rigatoni ala vodka is easy to make and a proven crowd-pleaser. Made with chicken chunks, it&rsquos a filling meal that&rsquos perfect for date night (paired with a bottle of vino!) or a simple meal for the whole family.

This is hands down my favorite pasta dish &mdash it&rsquos a hit every time I make it! And it&rsquos one of the few dishes that I can honestly eat meal after meal&hellip without getting sick of it. And it&rsquos surprisingly better the next day.

The dish is creamy, luscious, and has depths of flavor, unlike your more traditional vodka sauces that tend to be on the blander side. I also include Perdue Harvestlands Diced Chicken Breast to make it a full meal. This homemade vodka sauce is guaranteed to not only impress your guests but have you thinking twice about ever ordering it anywhere else ever again. Seriously.

If you&rsquore worried about the amount of vodka in the vodka sauce, don&rsquot be. This pasta sauce isn&rsquot a quick one, but it&rsquos so worth it. The harshness of the vodka in the sauce will completely burn off while it simmers and will ultimately emulsify all the delicious, savory flavors of the cream, tangy tomato sauce and the buttery onions into one beautiful, cohesive sauce.

Pasta Time!

When it comes to vodka sauce, you&rsquore going to want a pasta that the sauce can stick to. Rigatoni and penne are both classics and work due to their shape and ridges, but you can also try fusilli (perfect for kids thanks to its corkscrew shape) or farfalle (fun little bowties).

How To Make The Vodka Sauce

The best thing about this sauce, other than taste, is how simple it is to make. And quite honestly you feel like an Italy-trained chef after it&rsquos complete because it&rsquos that good!

Pasta Loves Vodka: 9 Variations on a Classic Pairing

Pasta alla vodka is a classically delicious dish, and it only takes a handful of ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your pantry or fridge. These are some of our favorite versions of pasta with vodka sauce, including a vegan pasta alla vodka that happens to be great for omnivores who are all out of heavy cream.

A sauce of canned tomatoes tempered with cream is a no brainer for pasta of any shape. This recipe, however, which became popular in the 1960s, adds a healthy slug of vodka to the mix. The alcohol doesn’t survive the deglazing and cooking, so don’t worry—your kids (and you) won’t feel tipsy. But it does add some of the richness and complexity that any spirit (brandy, for instance) brings to many dishes.

These cozy, comforting pastas with vodka sauce are pantry-friendly and perfect for celebrating an ideal marriage of pasta ingredients.

Bialetti Pasta Pot with Strainer Lid, $34.99 on Amazon

No matter what kind of pasta you make, a pot with a built-in strainer makes draining it easy.

1. Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka

Deglazing the pan you sautéed scallops in with vodka is a bold and beautiful way to get maximum flavor. Lemon, cream, and a whole lot of tarragon finish a delicate dish that’s delicious as is or tossed with pasta. Get our Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka recipe.

2. Linguine with Clams and Chorizo

For a fun twist that’s not quite as costly as steak and scampi, pair spicy Mexican chorizo and clams, serve it tossed with pasta, and consider it surf ’n’ turf for the weeknight schedule. The vodka adds warmth and character. Get our Linguine with Clams and Chorizo recipe.

The BEST Rigatoni a la Vodka with Pancetta

A creamy, rich and decadent Vodka sauce with Pancetta that will make your saucy pasta dreams come true! Rigatoni a la Vodka is surprisingly simple to make at home, so treat yourself and your family. Say “I love you” a la Vodka!

In our family it’s tradition that when on your birthday you get to choose the menu for your special birthday dinner. It’s a tradition steaming from my inherent desire to convey my affection through “Acts of Service” which is my “Love Language“. And my Aquarian husband was the most recent chosen one and as I’m sure you have gathered by now… Rigatoni a al Vodka was his request!

Not just any a la Vodka sauce, a bumped up version that incorporates salty bits of Pancetta, which is basically Italian bacon. And if you’ve never made a vodka sauce with Pancetta, then I’m here to forever change your life, my friend !

In fact, upon reflection, even when we were dating, his request was rigatoni a la vodka! He also usually asks for Veal Saltimbocca, but that’s another post entirely!

And would you believe it, I used to shy away from this dish! I’ve enjoyed Vodka sauce in restaurants of course, and for some reason I always got the impression that it was too complicated to make at home. Perhaps because it seems so sophisticated to artfully infuse a cream based and tomato sauce into one rich, velvety pasta cloak.

I have since realized that I was sorely mistaken! Not only is a vodka sauce incredibly easy to make and requires very few ingredients, but it’s an instant crowd pleaser and a very sneaky way to impress the lucky people gathered around your dinner table! Rigatoni a la Vodka gives the people the impression, “Damn, they really know what they are doing”! But between you and me, it’s just a simple as a basic tomato sauce! Try it and see for yourself!

And big bonus!! You already have the bottle of Vodka out- make yourself a little cocktail while you are at it!!


  1. Nash

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  3. Ubaid

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  4. Chadwick

    It together. And with this I have come across.

  5. Dawar

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