The spicy rigatoni recipe is simple to make and full of big flavors. A delicious dinner with a perfect balance of tangy and spicy vodka sauce. It's cozy and satisfying, ideal for a crowd or family.
Recently, this classic spicy rigatoni has been a sweet discovery; our whole family gave a big thumbs up.
This spicy vodka pasta could give you a better idea to try our new variations within the same recipe you rely on.
If you are uncomfortable adding vodka, skip vodka from the recipe list. Rigatoni with tomato sauce still tastes incredible.
The creaminess from the cheese and the tanginess from the marinara sauce are the highlights here. To enhance further, add your favorite toppings; it's so satisfying and complete.
The ingredients in the spicy rigatoni recipe
Our favorite Italian dinner menu inspires this recipe. We tried making the classic version of spicy rigatoni with vodka sauce.
But tweaked a little to modern kitchen for effortless cooking, we opted for store-bought marinara sauce however, if you think of making from scratch(like this spicy penne pasta, sriracha shrimp pasta), scroll down further for more tips and ideas.
Rigatoni pasta. The tube pasta holds the sauce very well. You may use penne, ziti, or other tubed pasta.
Olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil works best; I would strongly advise using this. And make sure you cook in medium to low heat to retain its all-natural flavors.
Sweet peppers. Traditionally, a spicy rigatoni vodka sauce is made with sweet peppers. And we are following the tradition here as well. The sweet pepper balances the heat from the red pepper flakes and the creaminess of the cheese.
Feel free to use any sweet peppers of your choice. I had a bunch of sweet peppers left over in the refrigerator from the recent visit to Pennsylvania's farmers market.
Onion chopped. It provides depth of flavor and adds volume to the sauce. You may use shallots or green onion as well.
Tomatoes. I have used a can of diced roasted tomato for spicy rigatoni pasta, known for its zing taste. I feel it makes the sauce more prominent. However, You may use fresh tomatoes or canned whole tomatoes.
On the other hand, you can bring down the prepping and cooking time just by substituting onion and tomato with the store-bought marinara sauce.
Heavy whipping cream. It makes the pasta creamy and rich. To make it light, choose half and half.
When my family often wants a light dinner, I use whole milk(mixed with a teaspoon of cornstarch) as the substitute for heavy whipping cream. I always had better results; though the sauce may not be creamy enough, but tastes calm and cozy.
Vodka. The alcohol in the vodka evaporates while cooking, and you don't taste the vodka. But it provides a rich touch that sets it as a signature dish.
Parmesan cheese. Balances the acidity from tomato and spiciness from red pepper flakes.
Red pepper flakes. Adding these red pepper flakes provides an intense heat and aroma.
Garlic. For robust, wholesome flavors.
How to make a rigatoni pasta
Prep work. In a small mixing bowl, add diced roasted tomatoes and crush them with your hand until they turn mushy.
In a large pot, cook pasta in salted water until it's al dente. Strain the pasta and reserve one cup of pasta water. Set aside pasta and pasta water aside.
Make the sauce. Place a skillet over medium to low heat; add extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic, onion, and chopped sweet pepper. And sauté until the onion becomes translucent.
Then add mashed diced tomatoes and sauté until it thickens.
Add rigatoni. Add rigatoni pasta, vodka, and the water reserved in the first step.
Allow it to cook until the sauce turns to a thick consistency.
Stir in heavy whipped cream, red pepper flakes, and the grated parmesan cheese.
Cook until the vodka sauce coats the pasta well. Garnish with chopped green onion if desired.
Best to serve with
How to store
I prefer making the vodka sauce upfront and tossing it in the freshly cooked rigatoni. This spicy rigatoni pasta is freezer-friendly. You may freeze the pasta and reheat it whenever needed.
Refrigerate. Store the cooked leftover spicy rigatoni in an airtight container. Refrigerate to use within five days.
Freezer. Freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Reheat. Leave the container in the refrigerator overnight for thawing. Gently reheat in the microwave by sprinkling water or vegetable broth to keep them from drying out. On the other hand, you may also reheat it over the stovetop by adding a splash of water/vegetable broth.
Chicken. Spicy chicken rigatoni is a popular, wholesome variation. You may cook chicken cubes, onion, and sweet pepper for this.
Large rigatoni pasta. As we have specified, any tube-type pasta is suitable to hold the sauce. And the same applies here as well.
Extra heat. For more spiciness, stir in chili paste or cayenne pepper.
Without heat. Do you prefer to make the sauce without heat? Skip adding the red pepper flakes.
Low fat. Choose light cream, half and half, or whole milk.
Tools suggestions for this recipe
Mixing bowl. I cannot start the prepping work without these.
Deep pan. Though I have used a cast iron skillet for making this recipe, a deep stainless pan is excellent.
Sauce pot. This is great for cooking pasta and convenient for draining.
Printable recipe card
- 16 oz rigatoni or other tube pasta
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon garlic minced
- ½ cup sweet peppers roughly chopped
- ¼ onion chopped
- 14 oz fire roasted diced tomato /1 can-mashed
- 3 tablespoon vodka
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- To a mixing bowl, add diced fire roasted tomatoes and crush it with your hand until it turns mushy.
- In a large pot, cook pasta in salted water, until it's al dente. Strain the pasta and reserve one cup of pasta water. Set aside pasta and pasta water aside.
Make the sauce
- In medium to low heat place a pan. Add extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and sweet peppers. And sauté until the onion becomes translucent.
- Then add mashed diced tomatoes and sauté until it thickens.
- Add rigatoni pasta, vodka, and the pasta water that we have reserved in the first step.
- Allow it to cook until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in heavy whipped cream, red pepper flakes, and the grated parmesan cheese.
- Cook until the vodka sauce evenly coats the pasta. Optionally garnish with chopped green onion.
- To cut down the heat, lower or skip adding red pepper flakes.
- Add more red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or chili paste to increase the heat.
- Refrigerate. Store the cooked leftover spicy rigatoni in an airtight container. Refrigerate to use within five days.
- Freezer. Freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
- Reheat. Leave the container in the refrigerator overnight for thawing. Gently reheat in the microwave by sprinkling water or vegetable broth to keep them from drying out.