The Best Spicy Vodka Rigatoni (alla Vodka Sauce)

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Jump to RecipeSaute pan with rigatoni alla vodka pasta in it.

This spicy vodka rigatoni has everything you want in a pasta sauce. It's spicy, creamy, and cheesy. A classic vodka sauce is a simple pasta dish that is always a crowd-pleaser.

What is Vodka Sauce?

Vodka sauce is a creamy tomato-based sauce that typically includes ingredients such as tomatoes, cream, onions, garlic, vodka, and some herbs and spices. It is often used with rigatoni or penne.

The vodka is added to the sauce to help emulsify the sauce together. It also works to deglaze the pan and add a slightly acidic flavor to the sauce. It even helps to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients and gives the sauce a unique taste.

Recipe Substitutions

  • Without Cream: If you want a lighter dish you can use half and half or milk instead of heavy cream. You could also go for a vegan cream alternative.
  • Without Vodka: If you don’t want to use vodka just substitute the same amount for a vegetable broth or water. This will change the flavor of the pasta dish, but it will still be delicious!
  • Type of Pasta: I love using rigatoni pasta in this recipe but you could use any type of pasta shape. Penne or fusilli also works great here. You could even make your own pasta. I've had this sauce with homemade fettuccine noodles and that is delicious as well.
  • Spice Level: This vodka sauce has the perfect amount of heat. The spice comes from red pepper flakes. If you are sensitive to spice, just use half, you can always add more spice later. Also, make sure to check your spice expiration date. If your spices are old they may be more mellow and have less heat to them.
  • Make it Vegan: Substitute the cream for a plant-based cream like soy cream and use 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan.
  • Without Tomato Paste: I love using tomato paste because it gives the sauce a deep rich flavor. If you don't have tomato paste you can also use a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes. You might need to cook the sauce down a little bit longer to cook out some of the water. You just want the acidity of the tomatoes and that nice bright red color to come through.
Spicy vodka rigatoni in a pot and on a plate.

How to Make Spicy Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce is actually a fairly simple sauce to make. Here are the basic steps to making spicy vodka rigatoni:

  1. Cook onions and garlic.
  2. Add in spices and tomato paste.
  3. Deglaze the pan with vodka.
  4. Add in the cream and parmesan.
  5. Toss with your pasta and pasta water.

How to Store Leftovers?

If you have extra spicy vodka pasta, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay good for up to 5 days.

When reheating the pasta, add a little extra water to help thin out the sauce.

What to Serve with Vodka Sauce Pasta?

Since this is a fairly rich pasta dish, I like to serve it with a light salad such as this Italian side salad or simple kale salad. You could also serve it alongside some bread. Having a French baguette is a good way to soak up all that extra sauce.

Other Creamy Pasta Recipes You Might Enjoy

I hope you enjoy this spicy rigatoni alla vodka recipe as much as I do! Share your spicy rigatoni recipe with us by tagging @sigsbeestreet

The Best Spicy Vodka Rigatoni (alla Vodka Sauce)

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  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 (6oz) can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup pasta water (reserved from the pasta cooking water*)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
  • fresh basil, for topping


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (check package instructions for time). Save 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta (you will use this to thin out the sauce later).
  2. While the pasta cooks, make the spicy vodka sauce. Heat olive oil in a saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add in the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add in tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste starts to darken about 3 minutes. The tomato paste might start to stick to the bottom of the pan. That is ok, the vodka will help deglaze the plan and get all of those browned bits into the sauce.
  4. Turn your heat to low and add in the vodka. Stir to incorporate everything and cook down the vodka to get rid of any alcoholic flavor, about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Slowly add in the cream and mix until you have a deliciously creamy sauce.
  6. Add in your pasta, parmesan, and some of the pasta water. Mix together and add more pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce more. If it is too thin just keep it on low heat until the sauce thickens.
  7. Taste and adjust as needed. You might want to add more salt or pepper at this point.
  8. Serve with more parmesan and fresh basil.


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