July 14, 2021

Spicy Vodka Rigatoni

This is the only copycat recipe that you need for Carbone’s spicy rigatoni. This sauce is spicy with flavor, creamy and velvety, and has just enough tang. IYKYK, and if you don’t you are about to find out.

If you’re from New York City chances are you know what “spicy rigs” is. If you aren’t from New York or have never heard of Carbone’s spicy rigatoni this post might change the way you look at vodka sauce. This spicy vodka rigatoni recipe is creamy, cheesy, a little spicy, and just addictive enough to keep you coming back for more.

When the pandemic hit, a ton of food blogs put out copycat recipes of Carbone’s iconic dish aka the spicy vodka rigatoni. I tried a few; some were good, and some not so much. I was surprised how many recipes were recipes for plain vodka sauce with some chili flakes in it. Nothing like the original. Also, some recipes called for multiple pots to make the sauce… nobody has time for that. This recipe is not only quick, and easy to make, but might just become your staple vodka sauce recipe.

ingredients for spicy rigatoni

oooo a fancy pasta shape

macro image of dried pasta


  • Pasta – Sure you can use any pasta, but then the recipe wouldn’t be called Spicy Vodka Rigatoni would it? Pipette is preferable (curled short rigatoni), but if you can’t find that then short rigatoni works just fine. Can’t find that? Rigatoni will have to do.
  • Calabrian Chili Paste – The key ingredient. Calabrian chilis have become increasingly popular over the past 2 years and can be found in most supermarkets where you would find olives and sandwich spreads. I love Trader Joes Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce. If you aren’t near a Trader Joes, Amazon sells THIS.
  • Shallots
  • Garlic – A whole bulb. Leave it to me to provide a recipe that uses a whole bulb of garlic. if you are a pre-peeled box kind of person then 10-12 cloves.
  • Tomato Paste
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Vodka
  • Heavy Cream – If you are looking to cut down calories here, you can substitute for half and half, although the heavy cream is what makes it super creamy.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Go for good parm, none of the pre-shredded dust that you find outside of the refrigerator section.


Large Pot / Pan – This recipe yields enough sauce for 1 box of pasta so keep that in mind when you are picking your pot. I like to use a dutch oven for recipes like this, but whatever pot you have that will allow you to add the pasta to the sauce at the end and mix comfortably works just as well.

plate of spicy vodka rigatoni


Cook Down Aromatics – In a large pot over low heat melt the butter. Once melted add shallots and cook until soft, fragrant, and translucent but not brown (approx. 10 minutes). Add the additional butter and the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Build the Sauce – Add the tomato paste and mix to combine it with the shallots and garlic. Deglaze the pan with vodka and allow the alcohol to cook off for 3 minutes. Add the Calabrian chilis followed by the crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on.

Finish the Sauce – Add the heavy cream and simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the Parmesan cheese and mix until incorporated. If eating right away, add the pasta and serve immediately. If making in advance see below for storing instructions.


Can I make this rigatoni alla vodka without vodka?
Absolutely! Keep in mind the flavor will change slightly, but the dish is still great without it.

Can I make this in advance?
Yes! this is a great recipe to make in advance as well as double or triple the recipe it if you are cooking for a crowd. See below for storing and reheating instructions.

Can I replace Calabrian chilis for red pepper flakes?
Yes and no, the Calabrian chilis add not only heat but flavor to the dish. Remove them and you are making a spicy all vodka sauce and not a Carbone copycat. If you are okay with that then start with 1/2 tsp and add from there.

plate of spicy vodka rigatoni


This is a fantastic sauce to make a day or two ahead and reheat when ready to eat. I love making this in bulk for family events, because of how well it can be stored. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days in the fridge. When ready to enjoy, pop the sauce in a sauce pan and heat on the stove until it is warm. Add pasta and enjoy!

Looking for more spicy pasta dishes? Check out the recipes below!

Spicy Aglio e Olio
Blistering Tomato Marinara
Spicy Caper Pasta

July 14, 2021

Spicy Vodka Rigatoni

Print Recipe Pin Recipe
This spicy vodka rigatoni recipe is creamy, cheesy, a little spicy, and just addictive enough to keep you coming back for more.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Pasta, Spicy, Vodka Sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 people


  • 1 lb Pasta pipette or short rigatoni
  • 3 tbsp Butter
  • 1 bulb Garlic 10-12 cloves. minced.
  • 1 cup Shallots approx 2 large shallots. Rough dice.
  • 1/4 cup Tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup Vodka
  • 2 tbsp Calabrian Chili Paste or Trader Joes Bomba Sauce
  • 1 1/4 cup Crushed Tomatoes canned
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper kosher salt


  • In a deep pot heat 2 tbsp of butter.
  • Once butter is melted add the shallots and 1 tsp of salt and cook on super low heat for 10-15 minutes until shallots have sweated out and are translucent. * there should be no color on them, if they begin to brown turn down the heat.
  • Add in the additional 1 tbsp of butter and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes until garlic has softened.
  • Increase heat from low to a low-medium. Add tomato paste and combine with onions and garlic. Add in the vodka and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add in calabrian chili paste, combine, then add in crushed tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add in heavy cream and stir to combine. Add in cracked pepper and salt to taste (approx 1 tsp of salt) cook on low for 5 minutes and stir in parmesan cheese.
  • Add in pasta and combine.


  • Want it really spicy add 3 tbsp of the Calabrian pepper paste!

RATE + REVIEW What did you think of this recipe?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating