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.

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

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48 Comments

  1. B says:

    5 stars
    This dish is so easy to make and my family loved it very much. So delicious!

  2. Cindy barnes says:

    I made this tonight….absolute perfection! Will make again and again! Rave reviews from all!

  3. Mary says:

    Hi:
    Thank you for your great recipes!

    Could I eliminate the vodka and just use the dry white wine? Would you still use half cup of wine? Possibly, as you suggested, I could add half cup of chicken broth for the vodka.

    Thank you

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Mary, you can omit the vodka entirely and just use the dry white wine.

  4. Dan Dietz says:

    5 stars
    Amazing sauce!!! I have made many vodka sauce recipes over the years, clearly by people that didn’t know what they were talking about, and this is THE recipe. This is so good. It’s the wine. That’s the secret. I also realized I wasn’t cooking my tomato paste out nearly long enough. A full five minutes is so much better. Thank you!