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Vodka Rigatoni is a scrumptious pasta dish made with al dente pasta tossed in a rich vodka sauce made with tomatoes, heavy cream, an ounce of vodka, and parmesan cheese. Finished with fresh basil and peas, this easy and elegant one-pan meal is perfect for busy weeknights and fancier occasions!

overhead shot of vodka rigatoni in a pan topped with parmesan.

Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce

Vodka rigatoni, also known as rigatoni alla vodka if you want to get fancy, is a classic Italian pasta dish that is comforting, creamy, and easy to make!

The simplicity and the taste are unreal. It’s the kind of dish you order at an Italian-American restaurant and wonder how they get their sauce so savory, creamy, and utterly delicious.

There are a few tips and tricks to tweaking the ingredients a bit, such as making it a bit spicy, adding meat, or using wine with vodka.

This vodka rigatoni recipe comes together in under 1 hour and makes 8 servings which is great for serving a crowd. Or just get your stretchy pants ready for some mighty delicious leftovers!

Why you’ll love Vodka Rigatoni

It’s where impressive meets easy – Restaurant-quality meals made from a handful of ingredients are always impressive. The pink color of the cream sauce, the zesty tomatoes, and fresh basil make this dish pop.

Suitable for all occasions – Serve a large crowd for a dinner party, make a special dinner for two, or serve it up for your family on busy weeknights. Vodka rigatoni is always a good idea!

You won’t notice the alcohol – But you will notice the flavor it leaves behind. So, don’t skip it! Just kidding, you can totally skip it, but you will be missing that particular vodka rigatoni flavor.

large bowl of vodka rigatoni with green peas.

Equipment you’ll need

Ingredients

Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.

  • Heavy Cream – Gives the sauce its richness. Try to avoid using anything lighter than heavy cream or it’s just not the same.
  • Crushed Tomatoes – When combined with the cream, it forms that signature pink color. The tomatoes add an acidic tangy element while the cream cuts through the acid.
  • Vodka – You don’t need much, just an ounce. There’s no need to break out the expensive stuff, whatever you have on hand is great, just don’t use anything flavored.
  • Fresh Basil – This vibrant herb livens up the dish and fits in with the cream sauce.
  • Minced Garlic – You can adjust the amount if desired. If you like yours extra garlicky, add more.
  • Sugar – Helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes without adding any real sweetness to the sauce.
  • Salt and Pepper – Needed for seasoning.
  • Rigatoni – The pasta! Cooked to al dente. You can also use penne if preferred.
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese – Gets stirred into the sauce, but feel free to save some for serving.
  • Frozen Peas – I’d say these are optional because I know some kids (and adults) aren’t a fan of peas, but I love adding them in. They add a pop of green, are a fun texture, and add to the flavor in each bite.
overhead shot of labeled ingredients laid out to make vodka rigatoni.

How to make Vodka Rigatoni

This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.

  1. Step One: In a large skillet, stir the heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, vodka, basil, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper together. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to boil. Stir often.
skillet with crushed tomatoes, cream, basil, and seasonings.
  1. Step Two: Remove the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes until it starts to thicken.
  2. Step Three: In the meantime, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water just in case! (you may not need it). Drain the rest and set the pasta aside.
shaved parmesan and fresh basil in a pot of vodka sauce.
  1. Step Four: Once the sauce is done simmering, stir in the Parmesan, and the peas. Add the rigatoni and mix until everything is combined. Enjoy!
cooked rigatoni being stirred into vodka sauce.

What to serve with Vodka Rigatoni

This pasta with vodka sauce isn’t heavy, but it is hearty and creamy so I like to pair it with a vegetable side dish whether it be a chopped veggie salad, baked green beans, or sautéed asparagus.

We also always need some bread to scoop up whatever remaining drops of sauce there are on the plate. One hour dinner rolls or slow cooker bread are a favorite around here.

Tips & Suggestions

  • For more intensity in the tomato flavor, stir in some tomato paste.
  • Want some heat? Sprinkle in red pepper flakes or stir Calabrian chili paste into the sauce for spice.
  • You can even decide to use fire-roasted tomatoes rather than regular diced tomatoes.
  • To add some meat to this dish, add some diced cooked smoky bacon, pancetta, Italian sausage, or even chicken.
  • Keep the reserved pasta water handy if you find the sauce is too thick for your liking.
  • Swap the Parmesan with Pecorino Romano cheese for a stronger, saltier cheesy addition.
  • Don’t like peas? Swap them with baby spinach instead.

How to reheat and store Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce

How to store leftovers

If you have any leftovers, I’m jealous. Store whatever’s left in an airtight container in the fridge.

How long will vodka rigatoni last in the fridge?

You can enjoy leftovers for up to 4 days. If you have any extra sauce you’ve kept separate, you’ll want to use it on everything!

How to reheat cooked pasta with sauce

You can easily reheat this in the microwave or a pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat. The key is to add a splash of liquid, whether it’s broth or a bit of cream to loosen up any sauce that’s become too thick.

fork with a bite of rigatoni noodles.

FAQs

What does cooking pasta to al dente mean?

This just means to cook it a minute or so less than stated on the package instructions so there is a bite to it. Some people prefer this to soft pasta, and some do this because they know their pasta will continue cooking in the heat of the dish.

It’s completely up to you how you want to cook yours.

Does vodka do anything in pasta sauce?

It does! It intensifies the flavor and delivers almost a spicy element to it. There’s a sharpness in each bite that you just can’t get without it.

However, if you’re worried, or are serving it to kids, feel free to omit it.

Can I freeze it?

Though pasta can sometimes change texture a bit after having been frozen, it does freeze decently.
Put leftovers into a freezer bag or a freezer safe container. You’ll want to heat it through, like a casserole, when you’re ready to enjoy it.

Need more easy pasta recipes? Try these:

Creamy Italian Crockpot Chicken

Quick Lasagna Skillet

Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Spinach

Pizza Pasta Bake

Click here for my entire collection of pasta recipes.

plate of vodka rigatoni with bread.

Did You Make This?

If you made this recipe, I’d love to know how it went in the comments section below.

You can also tag me on Instagram – @melissa_pplates or share a pic in the Persnickety Plates Community Facebook group. I love seeing what you’ve tried!

overhead shot of vodka rigatoni in a pan topped with parmesan.
5 from 4 votes

Vodka Rigatoni

Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Vodka Rigatoni is a scrumptious pasta dish made with al dente pasta tossed in a rich vodka sauce made with tomatoes, heavy cream, an ounce of vodka, and parmesan cheese. Finished with fresh basil and peas, this easy and elegant one-pan meal is perfect for busy weeknights and fancier occasions!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup frozen peas

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, add the heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, vodka, basil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and cook over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil, stirring often.
    2 cups heavy cream, 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, 1 ounce vodka, 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 ½ teaspoons granulated white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Uncover, turn heat to low, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the rigatoni until al dente (or however you like it). Drain and set aside.
    1 pound rigatoni
  • After 30 minutes of the sauce simmering, stir in the parmesan cheese and peas.
    1 cup shaved parmesan cheese, ¼ cup frozen peas
  • Stir in the cooked rigatoni.
  • Top with additional parmesan and fresh basil for serving.

Notes

  • For heat, stir in some red pepper flakes or chili paste.
  • You can even decide to use fire-roasted tomatoes rather than regular diced tomatoes.
  • To add some meat to this dish, add some diced cooked smoky bacon, pancetta, Italian sausage, or even chicken.
  • Keep the reserved pasta water handy if you find the sauce is too thick for your liking.
  • Swap the Parmesan with Pecorino Romano cheese for a stronger, saltier cheesy addition.
  • Don’t like peas? Swap them with baby spinach instead.
  • Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 509kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 642mg | Potassium: 500mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1247IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 236mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram @melissa_pplates so I can see!

Originally published October 19, 2016

Vodka Rigatoni is creamy, comforting and easy even though it's made from scratch and it pairs beautifully with Eggplant Parmesan found in the freezer aisle. | Persnickety Plates


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