In less than 30 minutes, you can make this rich, velvety, satisfying Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce recipe. It's a nourishing comfort food the whole family will love!
Rigatoni alla vodka is a classic Italian-American pasta dish known for its delicious and indulgent flavors. It's been popular long before Gigi Hadid shared her version on TikTok.
When we make this dish at home, we stick to a pretty traditional recipe. It has a well balanced combination of creamy tomato vodka sauce, nutty Parmesan cheese, and zesty fresh herbs.
This rigatoni with vodka sauce recipe is a restaurant quality dish that's so easy to make at home. Its luxurious and comforting qualities make it a favorite for those cozy nights in. Special enough for special occasions or date nights, but easy and fast enough for busy weeknights!
🌟 Why this recipe works
This rigatoni with vodka sauce recipe is my daughter's favorite pasta recipe. I hope it becomes part of your regular dinner rotation, too!
- Easy - If you can boil water, you can make this pasta with vodka sauce recipe! The steps are easy to follow. I've included step-by-step photos below to help you along the way.
- Fast - Need dinner in a flash? You can whip up this delicious pasta dish for the family in 30 minutes.
- Simple - This easy pasta recipe calls for simple ingredients you can find in any grocery store.
- Delicious - With creamy tomato sauce, al dente pasta, and a flavor foundation of pancetta, onions, and garlic, this pasta alla vodka is rich, creamy, and satisfying. Topped with bright fresh herbs and additional grated Parmesan cheese, it will tantalize your tastebuds with its irresistible symphony of flavors!
🛒 Ingredient notes
- Rigatoni pasta - Rigatoni is the best pasta shape for this recipe. It's a tube-shaped pasta with ridges, which allows the sauce to cling to it. The ridges also create a pleasant texture contrast against the creamy sauce.
- Olive oil - Use extra virgin olive oil to cook the pancetta, onions, and garlic.
- Pancetta - This cut of salt-cured pork belly meat is the flavor foundation of the tomato cream sauce. Leave it out if you want to make this a vegetarian pasta.
- Onions and garlic - Diced onion and minced fresh garlic cloves add aromatics and depth of flavor to the creamy tomato vodka sauce.
- Tomatoes - Crushed tomatoes add fresh acidity. And you don't need a lot of tomato paste - just one small 4-ounce can - to add richness and deeper flavor to the pasta sauce.
- Cream -The acidity of the tomatoes is tempered by the ¾ cup of heavy cream, creating a well-rounded taste profile.
- Vodka - The vodka adds a hint of warmth and complexity without overpowering the tomato cream sauce. It also helps smooth out the tomatoes so the result is a glorius velvety, glossy sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese - Grated Parmesan cheese is adds nutty and salty notes to the sauce. Be sure to save some to sprinkle over the pasta just before serving, too.
- Pepper flakes - A touch of red pepper flakes can be added for a mild spiciness, which complements the richness of the dish. The amount in this recipe adds just a touch of heat. Add more pepper flakes if you want to make a spicy vodka rigatoni pasta.
- Fresh herbs - Dried oregano and chopped fresh parsley add a pop of color and a burst of fresh herbal flavor to the dish, balancing the richness of the sauce. Sprinkle additional parsley as a garnish over the top of the dish just before serving.
- Salt and pepper - Use kosher salt and ground black pepper to season to taste.
Substitutions and additions:
- Substitute penne pasta for rigatoni. Penne alla vodka is a popular version of this same dish.
- Substitute your favorite dairy-free grated parmesan cheese alternative and your favorite dairy-free heavy cream to make this a vegan pasta dish.
- Substitute finely chopped mushrooms for the pancetta to make this a hearty vegetarian pasta.
- Add some thinly sliced fresh basil to garnish each serving.
✅ Step-by-step instructions
A full list of ingredients and detailed instructions are in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. Here's a visual step-by-step guide with photos to show you how to make this delicious meal.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions.
- In a large saucepan, skillet, or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the pancetta.
3. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Lower the heat to medium low heat, and slowly pour in the vodka.
5. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
6. Continue stirring and cooking, pressing with a wooden spoon to break down the whole tomatoes into small piece as they soften.
7. Pour in the cream, add parmesan cheese, and add herbs. Stir.
8. Drain pasta and add the cooked pasta to the sauce, along with about a cup of pasta water. Continue stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens.
Serve and garnish with additional chopped herbs and more grated Parmesan cheese.
👩🏻🍳 Recipe FAQs
Alcohol is never added to a sauce for alcohol purposes, but rather for flavor and texture. You should be cooking the sauce long enough that the actual alcohol content is significantly lowered and what remains is the flavor. The vodka also helps increase the creaminess of the sauce.
Most pediatricians agree that classic vodka sauce contains such a small amount of vodka and most of that alcohol is cooked out of it, that it's generally safe for kids. You should definitely be cooking the alcohol long enough that what remains is a very, very low percentage of alcohol. You can refer to this article about whether kids can have vodka sauce for what pediatricians have to say.
Allow the pasta and sauce to cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four or five days.
Yes! Allow the pasta and sauce to cool down first. Then store in a freezer safe airtight container in the freezer for up to two months.
🍽 Serving ideas
This delectable practically perfect pasta is great to serve with bread to soak up that creamy vodka sauce. Try making our Air Fryer Garlic Bread, Garlic Rosemary Focaccia Bread, or these tasty Garlic Parmesan Knots.
🍷 🥂 Wine pairings
For American Italian recipes like this, you'll want wines that complement the rich, creamy, and slightly spicy flavors of the sauce.
Here are two excellent wine options that would pair well with this dish:
- Chardonnay - This versatile white wine has a good acidity that can cut through the richness of the vodka sauce and a creamy mouthfeel that complements the creamy sauce of the dish. Opt for a lightly oaked Chardonnay from regions like California or Burgundy. The oak influence can add complexity to the pairing.
- Pinot Noir - This light-bodied red wine has bright acidity and flavors of red berries, cherries, and subtle earthy notes. The acidity in Pinot Noir can cut through the richness of the vodka sauce. Meanwhile, its fruitiness complements the tomato-based elements in the sauce.
🍳 Kitchen tools and equipment
Ready to make this recipe? Here are the kitchen tools and equipment you'll need:
Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce
- 1 Large stainless steel skillet, large pot, or Dutch oven
- 12 ounces rigatoni
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces chopped pancetta
- ½ cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ cup vodka
- 1 can (28-ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and/or basil, for serving
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet, pot, or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes, just until the pancetta is cooked.
- Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Stir and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour in the vodka and cook until the vodka is reduced by half, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir to combine. Cook for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce, using a wooden spoon to crush and break down the whole tomatoes as they cook.
- Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, then add the cream and parmesan cheese, stir, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is blended into the sauce.
- Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.
- Sprinkle each serving with a little chopped fresh parsley and/or basil and additional grated parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information is a general estimate. Actual nutrition details may vary depending on the exact foods & brands you use to make this recipe. It does not take into account any substitutions, toppings, or optional ingredients.