Spicy Rigatoni alla Vodka


This pasta recipe hits all the good notes: creamy, spicy, rich, and saucy. Vodka does more than just add a little booze to the mix—it marries the disparate elements, bringing together the caramelized shallots and garlic with the bright tomato paste and the decadent cream.

Hands On Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
40 mins
6 serves

This makes a big batch, perfect for cold weather dinner parties fueled by red wine and slow-burning candles. Psst…If you want to swap in a different pasta for what you have on hand, make sure to use one that has ridges (like penne) to sop up the sauce.


  • 1 pound mezzi rigatoni or other short pasta

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 5 large shallots, sliced (2½ cups)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for cooking pasta

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced

  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • ½ cup vodka

  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted water according to package directions for al dente; before draining, ladle 1 cup pasta water into a large, heatproof bowl. Drain cooked pasta. Whisk cream into reserved pasta water. Set aside.

  2. Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add shallots and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring often, until tomato paste starts to darken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vodka; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

  3. Reduce heat to low and add reserved cream mixture, several grinds of black pepper, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Stir until combined, about 1 minute; add pasta and toss to coat. Serve topped with several more grinds of black pepper.

    Greg DuPree
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