This copycat Carbone Spicy Rigatoni recipe is easy enough to make on a weeknight but indulgent enough to make for a date night! The spicy vodka sauce is creamy, super rich, and incredibly easy to make.
This creamy and spicy vodka rigatoni is a comforting and filling dinner. I love to round out the meal with a crusty baguette to help soak up some of the sauce, a batch of these easy garlic knots, or air fryer garlic bread. It also pairs well with a Caesar salad, classic garden salad, or roasted broccolini to add some green to the meal.
⭐Why I Love It:
- Rich and Creamy - This sauce is super decadent and perfect for a special occasion.
- Spicy - The Calabrian chili peppers add spice to the sauce, but you can adjust it to your taste.
- Carbone Copycat - A close copycat of the famous restaurant favorite!
🥘Ingredients and Equipment
- Rigatoni Pasta - I also love rigatoni in this Rigatoni al forno recipe or spicy sausage pasta recipe.
- Olive Oil
- Onion - finely diced
- Spices - Salt, Pepper
- Minced Garlic
- Calabrian Chili Peppers - (pictured above). You can buy these in a jar in most grocery stores. They are spicy and give the sauce its famous spicy flavor.
- Tomato Paste - I also love making this vegan creamy tomato pasta recipe with tomato paste.
- Vodka - You can't taste the vodka! Using vodka in a pasta sauce helps the cream and tomatoes come together and the alcohol (and vodka flavor) all cooks off.
- Heavy Cream - This makes the sauce rich and creamy! You can swap in half and half for a lighter sauce.
- Sugar - Just a tiny bit of sugar helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes
- Grated Parmesan Cheese - plus extra for serving
- Pasta Water - Make sure to save some after cooking the pasta as it helps improve the sauce texture.
- Large Pot - To cook the pasta.
- Second Large Pot or Deep Sauté Pan - To make the sauce. If you have one large enough, you can toss the pasta right into the same pot.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Red Pepper Flakes - If you can't find Calabrian Chili Peppers, you can swap in red pepper flakes to add spice.
- Chicken - For protein, you can cook some cubed or sliced chicken separately and serve on top of or fold into the pasta.
- Halve the Recipe - This recipe makes a big batch to serve 6 people, but you can easily halve the recipe for a date night. The recipe steps remain the same.
🔪Step By Step Instructions
Making this copycat Carbone Spicy Rigatoni recipe is easier than you think! The spicy vodka sauce comes together in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Photo 1 - Start by getting a big pot of salted water boiling and cooking the pasta to al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Photo 2 - Heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onions (with salt & pepper) until translucent then add the garlic and Calabrian chili peppers and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook while stirring for a couple of minutes until dark red. Add the vodka and cook for another minute. Stir in the heavy cream.
Photo 3 - Add the al dente pasta to the sauce along with the pasta water and sugar, if using. Fold to coat the pasta and fold in the butter and parmesan cheese.
Photo 4 - Taste the pasta and adjust the salt/pepper, if needed. Serve and enjoy!.
🍽Leftovers, Storage, and Reheating
Due to the cream in the sauce, this pasta recipe is best served after making as the sauce can 'break' or get slightly oily when reheating. But leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Don't want to use vodka? - Adding vodka to a pasta sauce helps with the texture and creates a smooth sauce. The vodka flavor and alcohol cooks off in the sauce. But, if you don't consume alcohol you can omit and add a little extra pasta water to achieve the desired smooth consistency.
- Save the Pasta Water - Adding some of the reserved pasta water is key! The starch in the pasta water helps bind the sauce ingredients together and helps thicken the sauce slightly.
- Cook Pasta until Al Dente - To avoid mushy pasta, be sure to only cook until al dente. The pasta will cook a little bit more when tossed with the hot sauce.
Adding vodka in a pasta sauce gives it the best texture. It helps the cream and tomatoes combine together. Because the sauce is cooked, almost all of the alcohol cooks off as well as the vodka flavor.
Vodka sauce doesn't taste like vodka! The main purpose is to improve the texture of the sauce - the only slight flavor it gives is a subtle bite that balances well with a creamy sauce.
Calabrian chili peppers are an Italian Chile pepper grown in the Calabria region. They are a medium heat pepper, similar heat level to a Serrano pepper. You can buy them in a jar in most grocery stores - typically either in the condiment section near other jarred items (like olives) or hot sure, or in the international aisle.
🍝Related Pasta Recipes
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Carbone Spicy Rigatoni (copycat recipe)
This copycat Carbone Spicy Rigatoni recipe is easy enough to make on a weeknight but indulgent enough to make for a date night! The vodka sauce is spicy, creamy, and super rich.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- Category: Pasta, Main
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1lb rigatoni pasta
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup finely chopped Calabrian chili peppers
- 12 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup vodka
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Cook Pasta - Start by getting a big pot of salted water boiling and cooking the pasta to al dente. When finished cooking, make sure to reserve some of the pasta then drain the pasta (do not rinse) and set aside).
- Cook Onions and Calabrian Peppers - While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pot or deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent - 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and Calabrian chili peppers and cook for another minute until fragrant.
- Add Tomato Paste and Vodka - Add the tomato paste to the peppers and cook while stirring for a 2-3 minutes until dark red. Pour in the vodka and cook for another 2 minutes or so while stirring to combine.
- Stir in Heavy Cream - Stir in the heavy cream, stirring well to combine.
- Add Pasta - Add the al dente pasta to the sauce along with the pasta water and sugar, if using. Fold to coat the pasta and fold in the butter and parmesan cheese.
- Taste and Serve - Taste the pasta and adjust the salt/pepper, if needed. Serve and enjoy!
Vodka - Adding vodka to a pasta sauce helps with the texture and creates a smooth sauce. The vodka flavor and alcohol cooks off in the sauce. But, if you don't consume alcohol you can omit and add a little extra pasta water to achieve the desired smooth consistency.
- Serving Size: ⅙ of recipe
- Calories: 748
- Sugar: 11.9 g
- Sodium: 390.1 mg
- Fat: 36.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 71.9 g
- Fiber: 5.2 g
- Protein: 14.5 g
- Cholesterol: 51.5 mg
Keywords: Spicy rigatoni, Carbone spicy rigatoni recipe, spicy vodka rigatoni