Rigatoni alla vodka is a creamy pink sauce pasta that’s incredibly easy to make. Our recipe includes white wine in addition to the vodka for extra flavor, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and a touch of cream. It’s finished with Pecorino Romano and hand-torn basil and can be ready in about 30 minutes!

Large pan of rigatoni all vodka with wooden spoon scooping out pasta.


Editor’s Note: Originally published on February 13, 2019.  Updated with expanded info.

Rigatoni alla vodka is perhaps one of the best known pasta dishes to those living in the New York metro area.

This popular pasta can be found at nearly every wedding, communion, shower, etc. and is always a hit!

Jim first learned to make pasta alla vodka when he worked at a deli/catering facility in the 90’s and observed the chef, Richard, make it 20-pounds at a time!

Richard always included white wine for extra flavor, and that’s why it’s included here in our recipe.

We love how versatile vodka sauce is and the fact it can be used for much more than pasta, including chicken parm and pizza alla vodka!

Ingredients shown: olive oil, heavy cream, onion, garlic, basil, tomato paste, Pecorino Romano, hot red pepper flakes, white wine, vodka, and rigatoni pasta.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Dice 1 medium onion, mince 3 cloves of garlic, and grate 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese. Heat a large pan to medium-low and add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the onions.
Rigatoni alla vodka recipe process shot collage group number one.
  1. Saute the onions for 5-7 minutes or until soft, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add 6 ounces of tomato paste to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the past starts to burn at all, add a few ounces of water and continue to saute.
Recipe process shot collage group number two.
  1. Add 1 pound of rigatoni (or other tubular pasta) to the salted boiling water and cook to 1 minute less than al dente. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and 1/2 cup of vodka to the pan and turn the heat to high and boil until the liquid reduces by half (about 1-2 minutes).
  2. Add 1 cup of pasta water and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Recipe process shot collage group number three.
  1. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and mix thoroughly.
  2. Continue to simmer the sauce until the pasta is ready.
Recipe process shot collage group number four.
  1. When the pasta is 1 minute less than al dente, add it to the saucepan and stir to coat with the sauce. Cook over a simmer until the pasta reaches al dente, then remove from the heat.
  2. Add the grated Pecorino Romano and thoroughly mix to combine. If the pasta is at all dry, add some reserved pasta water to bring it back to a silky consistency.
Recipe process shot collage group number five.
  1. Taste test the pasta alla vodka, then add 5 large hand-torn basil leaves and serve. Enjoy!
Rigatoni alla vodka in white plate with basil and grated cheese.

Top Tips

  • Tomato paste. For this recipe, Jim uses tomato paste as he finds it helps the sauce cling better to the pasta. If you prefer a saucier, less sticky vodka sauce, try using the one he makes for shrimp alla vodka.
  • Cream.  We strongly recommend using cream for this recipe. Using something with a lower fat content, such as milk or half and half can cause the sauce to break.
  • Alcohol. We find that adding some dry white wine to rigatoni alla vodka greatly elevates its flavor. Vodka does not have much flavor, especially once the alcohol is cooked out, so the wine helps. If you can’t have alcohol, feel free to substitute with a low-sodium chicken broth.
  • Save your pasta water!  As with our other creamy pasta recipes, we recommend saving your pasta water. It can help reconstitute the sauce if it dries out while you’re waiting for family or guests to come to the table.
  • Additions and substitutions.  Pasta with vodka sauce can be combined with so many ingredients, such as chicken, peas, or baby spinach.  Adding prosciutto or ham is also great and will yield similar results to penne al baffo.
Overhead shot of large black pan with rigatoni alla vodka.

More comforting pasta recipes

If you love creamy and comfy pasta dishes, check out these other recipes!

If you’ve enjoyed this rigatoni alla vodka recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

We strive to satisfy a number of learning styles.  If you are someone who prefers to learn by watching, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Rigatoni Alla Vodka

4.95 from 19 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano finely grated
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups reserved pasta water will most likely not need all of it
  • 5 large basil leaves hand torn, for finishing

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons salt per gallon) to boil.
  • Heat a large pan to medium-low and add the extra virgin olive oil and onions. Saute the onions until soft (about 5-7 minutes). Once soft add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes), then add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  If the paste starts to burn, add a couple of ounces of water and continue to saute. At this point, cook the rigatoni until 1 minute less than al dente.
  • Add the wine and vodka to the pan and turn the heat to high. Boil until the liquid reduces by half (about 1-2 minutes). Next, add 1 cup of pasta water and turn the heat down to a simmer.
  • Add the cream and mix thoroughly while continuing to simmer the sauce.
  • Add the 1 minute less than al dente pasta to the saucepan and stir to coat. Cook over a simmer until the pasta reaches a perfect al dente then immediately remove the pan from the heat.
  • Add the grated Pecorino and thoroughly mix or toss to combine.  If the pasta is at all dry, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water.
  • Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Tear the basil on top of the pasta and serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Makes 4 large servings or 6 regular-sized ones.
  • If the pasta dries out while waiting for guests to sit down, thin the sauce with a couple more ounces of the reserved pasta water.
  • Prosciutto, peas, mushrooms, and Calabrian chili paste are just a few of the many extras than can be added to change up your vodka sauce.
  • Serve with extra Pecorino Romano cheese and crushed red pepper on the side.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 737kcal | Carbohydrates: 89.4g | Protein: 19.1g | Fat: 26.4g | Saturated Fat: 10.2g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 131mg | Potassium: 101mg | Fiber: 4.6g | Sugar: 5.5g | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!Check us out on Instagram at @sipandfeast or tag #sipandfeast!

This recipe was originally published on February 13, 2019.  It was completely updated on September 12, 2023

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48 Comments

  1. Ted says:

    5 stars
    Very good. I have been trying your recipes and my girls have been bugging me to make this. The next time I make it, they want order the vodka penne from the local Italian restaurant to compare against.

    1. James says:

      Hi Ted, thanks for the comment and so happy you and your daughters enjoyed!

  2. DD says:

    5 stars
    Made this last year. First time using paste. It was delicious. Put it in my recipe folder

    1. James says:

      Hi DD, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed!

  3. Lori says:

    5 stars
    Delicious, I will be making it again. Family really enjoyed it also. I love your recipes, they never fail. Looking forward to some more.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Lori, thanks for the comment. We’re so happy you and your family enjoyed!

  4. Mary Jane says:

    Hi James I love your web site I’m going to triple your recipe for your vodka sauce do I add both wine & vodka or just the vodka

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Mary Jane, thanks for the comment. If you’re going to triple the recipe, triple everything including the wine and the vodka. Hope you enjoy!

      1. Mary Jane says:

        5 stars
        Hi Jim & Tara. , .made your vodka sauce & tripled it
        for my sons 40th Birthday , everyone loved it. Will.cotinue to folllow you both on Your web site , I too was inspired by my grandma’s cooking,. thank you for your rep!y back to me. & Thank you for al! Your great recipes.

        1. Tara says:

          Hi Mary Jane, we’re so happy you all enjoyed the recipe and thanks for following along!

  5. Mac F says:

    5 stars
    I’ve used several recipes for vodka sauce but this one is king. The wine really what sets it apart. And it is so easy – the sauce can be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Winner!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Mac, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed it!

  6. Jan Thomas says:

    5 stars
    I have been following all your recipes. Tonight I made Rigatoni alla Vodka. It was delicious. I find your videos informative and easy to follow. I love pasta and find your recipes easy with many times a few ingredients and easy to make. I’m not a great cook, but you’re really helping me become one.
    Thanks so much!!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Jan, I’m so happy you’re enjoying the recipes and feel they’re helping you become a great cook. Thank you for the comment and kind words!

  7. Anne smetona says:

    5 stars
    It’s absolutely delicious , once again ..a winner …thank you .chef

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Anne, so happy you enjoyed this one too and really appreciate the comment!

  8. Italialady says:

    4 stars
    I agree this is very tasty but my family felt there was not enough sauce for the 1 lb of pasta. Next time I will need to double the sauce recipe.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi there, thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the taste. As with any cream pasta, if it gets a little too thick, or not saucy enough for your liking, you can always add a few ounces of reserved pasta water. Doubling the recipe will likely leave you with a lot of leftover sauce which is never a bad thing!

  9. Sheryl Rosenbloom says:

    I made this with the chicken parmesan tonight for dinner. My family raved! It was delicious! Can I freeze the extra vodka sauce?

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Sheryl, so happy you liked the recipe! You can freeze the extra sauce. Thanks for the comment!

  10. P1Eric says:

    Love the videos keep them coming! As an FYI – I do not see the tomatoes in this written recipe like you do in the chicken parm with vodka sauce video. Ironic because you almost forgot it in the video too!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Eric, thanks for the comment and happy you’re enjoying the videos! The recipe written here is with 6 ounces of tomato paste (I didn’t use whole tomatoes in this one).

      1. P1Eric says:

        Oh okay! Well I’m gonna try the chicken parm + vodka sauce from your video with the tomato added version tonight – thank you in advance for a tasty meal!