When the alcohol from the vodka burns off, it adds a dimension to the sauce that cannot be replicated. I like to serve this vegetarian sauce over rigatoni but fettuccini and spaghetti work nicely too. Serve with crusty bread and a crisp green salad. This sauce will not disappoint.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped for garnish, optional
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, per instructions. Using a heatproof measuring glass, scoop out about 1 cup boiling water from pot. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and stir to coat onion. Cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown and stick to the bottom of the pot, about 5-7 minutes. Add vodka, scraping up the brown bits from the pot, and reduce heat to simmer.
  4. Add in crushed tomatoes and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add heavy cream gradually while stirring it into the onion mixture, and stir until a smooth sauce forms. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  5. Transfer drained pasta to Dutch oven with vodka sauce and stir in 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt. Pasta should be coated with the smooth, shiny sauce. Add more pasta water if sauce is too thick.
  6. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and additional grated cheese. Garnish with basil leaves.


This sauce freezes well. I like to make extra and use during the week for pizza or flatbreads.