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Playing How to Make Rigatoni Vodka | Top Chef Antonia Lofaso

"Top Chef" winner and author of The Busy Mom's Cookbook, Antonia Lofaso, shares her recipe for rigatoni with vodka sauce—a creamy, spiced pasta topped with fresh ricotta.  

Antonia serves this popular pasta at Scopa, her Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. It's made with blanched garlic cloves, which are tender and more mellow and sweeter than raw. Prepare extra and use the whole or sliced cloves in marinades, sauces or even just spread on some good toasted bread and topped with a nice olive oil and flaky salt. 

Pro Tip from Antonia: For perfectly seasoned pasta, cook it in heavily salted water. The ideal ratio is 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water. 

For more pasta inspiration, check out Rach's Pasta with Confetti Caponata Ragu and Pasta with Pumpkin, Brown Butter, Crispy Sage and Nuts.


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound fresh rigatoni or your favorite fresh pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 8 large basil leaves, torn
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs of Italian parsley, torn
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ricotta
  • Pinch of Maldon salt


Serves: 4


Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan.  

Meanwhile, blanch the garlic by covering it with cold water in a very small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and drain as soon as it boils. Repeat. Transfer the cloves to a plate and refrigerate. When cold, thinly slice them (a mandoline is helpful here) and set aside.   

Season the boiling water with about 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook, stirring as needed, until quite al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the blanched, sliced garlic and chili flakes and sweat, stirring often, without letting the garlic get any color. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and 2 teaspoons kosher salt, then add the marinara sauce, cream and vodka. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 

Drain the pasta, reserving about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat. Be sure to stir as needed so that the pasta does not catch on the bottom of the pan; add some of the pasta water to thin the sauce, if needed.  

When the sauce has come together and the pasta is tender, remove from the heat, add the Parm and stir gently until completely combined. Taste for salt, adding more, if needed. 

Right before serving, stir in the basil, parsley and olive oil. Top with the ricotta and a pinch of Maldon salt.