The spicy rigatoni recipe is super simple to make and with full of big flavors. A delicious dinner with a perfect balance of tangy and spicy vodka sauce. Plus, it’s cozy and satisfying, ideal for a crowd or family.
Do you follow the same pasta recipe most dinner nights? We are not, we try to introduce and incorporate our favorite elements in every spin(like these coconut milk pasta sauce, spicy marinara sauce).
Recently, this classic spicy rigatoni is one such sweet discovery, our whole family gave a big thumbs up.
Possibly this spicy vodka pasta could give a better idea to try our new variations within the same recipe you rely on.
If you are not comfortable with 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 in your favorite toppings, it's so satisfying and complete.
The ingredients in the spicy rigatoni recipe
This recipe is inspired by our favorite Italian dinner menu. We tried making the classic version of spicy rigatoni with vodka sauce.
But tweaked a little to modern kitchen for an 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 our Pennsylvania’s farmers market.
Onion chopped. Provides depth of flavor, and adds volume to the sauce. You may use shallots or green onion as well.
Tomatoes. Spicy rigatoni pasta known for its zing taste, I have used a can of diced roasted tomato. 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. Makes the pasta creamy and rich. To make it light, choose half and half.
Many times when my family 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 gets evaporated 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 while seasoning provides an intense heat and aroma than adding at the garnishing stage.
Garlic. For robust wholesome flavors.
How to make a rigatoni pasta
Prep work. In a small mixing bowl, add diced 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. Place a skillet over medium to low heat, add extra virgin olive oil, and minced garlic, onion, 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 pasta water that we have reserved in the first step.
And allow it to cook until the sauce turns to 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
Salad. Spicy kale salad, jalapeno tuna salad are some of the best to combine with. For colorful hot and sour side, choose salads like fiesta salad, Greek yogurt chicken salad.
Stuffed chicken. If planning to serve with a choice of protein, my options are like Broccoli stuffed chicken, cedar grilled lemon chicken.
Garlic bread. What else can beat the combo of serving with garlic bread. Choose Spicy garlic bread for a spicy kick. And garlic knots make a traditional combo.
Vegetables. Any form of vegetables makes the spicy rigatoni comforting. Spicy roasted vegetables, spiced brussel sprouts, hasselback potatoes, crispy eggplant.
Pizza. This would be entertaining. Bread pizza, mini naan pizza, or other would be great to enjoy with.
How to store
I prefer making the vodka sauce upfront, and toss in the freshly cooked rigatoni. This spicy rigatoni pasta is freezer friendly. You may freeze the pasta and reheat whenever needed.
Refrigerate. Store the cooked leftover spicy rigatoni in an airtight container. And refrigerate to use within 5 days.
Freezer. Freeze in a freezer safe container to use upto 3 months.
Reheat. Leave the container in the refrigerator overnight for thawing. And gently reheat in the microwave by sprinkle 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 the popular wholesome variation. For this you may cook chicken cubes along with onion and sweet pepper.
Large rigatoni pasta. As we have specified, any tube type pasta is good 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. 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 suggestion for this recipe
Mixing bowl. I cannot start the prepping work, without these.
Deep pan. Though I have used cast iron skillet for making this recipe, a deep stainless pan is great according to me.
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.
Oh my, vodka, sweet peppers, and a kick. Count me in for this comforting and delicious pasta.
I love pasta with a little kick, so this was perfect for me!
I love the combination of flavors in this pasta recipe. Thanks for sharing.
I tried it and turned out really good! Thanks for the tips! I cut down the heat a little bit for my kids, they really enjoyed it!
Everyone loves this spicy rigatoni recipe. The seasoning is well balanced and goes well with every protein.