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Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce – Dante’s of Bologna

By on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022 at 8:58 am | 515 views

rigatoni alla vodka in a vintage pyrex dish

Dante’s of Bologna, a night club in the Italian city, served pasta with vodka sauce to late night partiers. Vodka was not common in Italy until the 1970s.

There are rumors that a vodka company sponsored competitions to find recipes and uses for vodka in Italian cuisine. There isn’t much evidence that rigatoni alla vodka is the result. More likely the dish was invented in New York City about a decade before the discotecas were serving vodka.

It’s unlikely however that this was the first tomato and vodka sauce, although probably the first iteration of the dish in Italy.

Recipe is for 3/4 lb of Rigatoni, but any shape can be substituted.


⅓ cup vodka
½ cup whipping cream
3 ½ cups tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic
⅛ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ pound diced pancetta


Heat oil
Add garlic and cook 1 minute
Crush tomatoes in mixing bowl
Add tomatoes, sugar
Bring to boil
Reduce and simmer
Melt butter in separate pan
Add pancetta just before butter foams
Cook until pancetta begins to crips
Add vodka to pancetta
Evaporate vodka, about 3 minutes
Add tomatoes and cream
Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes
Turn the pasta in the sauce

To learn the the true origins of vodka sauce and other historic Italian American recipes, check out Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American, available in April of 2022.