Classic Vodka Sauce
Vodka Sauce is a simple rich pink sauce traditionally served over penne pasta. Penne alla vodka is served in many Italian homes and restaurants, and this recipe is from my Italian neighbor’s mom. Your basic tomato sauce is made extra creamy with butter, cream, and a little vodka to balance out the flavors and richness of the dish. Take a trip to Italy, or at least your favorite Italian restaurant, without leaving your kitchen with with the Italian-American favorite Classic Vodka Sauce recipe.
I’m ruined. First of all, I grew up in a heavily Italian-American region. We have local pizza and pasta joints (some actually named Pizza & Pasta, coincidentally) on pretty much every corner run by families who, if they weren’t from Italy themselves, were only a generation or two removed from immigrants who came to the United States from Italy. So while Italian-American cuisine does have some differences from authentic Italian dishes, the roots of these recipes are the same.
Second, as an adult, I have been lucky enough to travel to Italy multiple times. I went twice on vacation – once to Rome and Florence, and once to Tuscany with a side trip to Cinque Terre. I also traveled there several times for business, being brought to restaurants by locals who know all the best places. Naturally there’s been plenty of homemade pasta and brick oven pizza. Once that pasta was topped with a pile of fresh white truffles because, of course, it was prime truffle season. And the pizza has been ordered out of a window where you tell them about what size slice you want ad you pay by weight. Bowl after bowl of antipasti has been brought to our table to enjoy family-style from giant bowls on a counter in the front of the restaurant. We’ve been told what we are going to eat by the large man throwing a side of beef over his shoulder so that he could hack off a Bistecca alla Fiorentina. The fish that was just pulled out of the Mediterranean sea was deboned tableside and placed on our plates next to the pasta perfectly coated in pesto made in the place where pesto was invented. I’ve had mushrooms and polenta that were roasted over an open fire pit and had tiramisu that puts any tiramisu in this country to shame. I’ve had more glasses of vino rosso della casa than I care to count, all amazing, all of completely unknown origin because when you walk into a restaurant in Italy, you order the vino rosso della casa, it comes out in a carafe, not a bottle, and you just don’t question it. And gelato, well, let’s not even go there.
So now when people want to order from their favorite “pizza” place, you know, the ones that rhyme with Geronimos, Papa Don’s, and Shmizza Putt, or rave about the never-ending pasta bowl from the place named after the grove where you grow small fruits that are pressed into oil, I literally can’t even. And I hate that phrase, but I have not other way to say it. Call me spoiled. Call me a snob. It’s okay, I’ll admit that’s what I am. I will go to the pizza chain in Delaware because I do have that darn gluten allergy, and their gluten free pizza is the closest I can come to legit pizza, but other than that, I am making Italian food at home, or searching out a local hole in the wall Italian joint that is still owned by a guy named Alfonso or Luigi or Angelo. And let me tell you, here in Maryland, those are much harder to come by.
Which leaves me to making Italian-inspired fare in my own kitchen. It’s not always completely authentic, but it’s made from the heart, which, if you’ve even been to Italy or known an Italian-American family, is truly what makes their food so special and delicious. And this recipe comes directly from my old next-door-neighbor’s Italian mama…
Homemade Vodka Sauce
This Classic Vodka Sauce recipe is so easy, and it’s a staple on the menus of many Italian joints in New Jersey. It’s basically a tomato cream sauce, but the addition of vodka gives it this little bit of tangy zing that helps cut some of the richness. Because yes, it is rich. I mean, we are talking heavy cream and butter and parmesan cheese kinda rich. Personally I think a little goes a long way, so the indulgence is totally okay with me me every once in awhile. You can cut the butter a little, but if you are going to make it, then make it for a special treat and go all out. Trust me. The creamy deliciousness is worth it.
Vodka Sauce has so much flavor that you can simply serve it as-is over pasta or zoodles for a fabulous meatless meal. It’s great with bits of crispy prosciutto or sausage if you want some meat, or shrimp for a seafood dish. And peas or broccoli are a tasty addition, especially if you like to add a little pop of color.
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Classic Vodka Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter 2 ounces / 1/2 stick
- 2/3 cup vodka
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes I use the Tuttorosso brand which has basil in it. If you use another brand without basil, you may want to add a pinch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Pasta or zucchini noodles for serving
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the vodka and red pepper flakes (if using), bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to cook out the alcohol.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for about five minutes, or until slightly thickened.
- Stir in the cream and cook for another five minutes, then stir in the cheese.
- Serve over pasta or zucchini noodles.
Enjoy this Classic Vodka Sauce recipe!
Sauce up those noodles or zoodles…
Plus round out the rest of your Italian food menu with these #SundaySupper recipes…
- Cacio e Uova Meatless Recipe from She Loves Biscotti
- Gnocchi alla Romana from Tramplingrose
- Italian Rice Balls from My World Simplified
- Rosemary Focaccia from Curious Cuisiniere
- Tomato Caprese with Burrata from Casa de Crews
- Asparagus and lemon risotto from Un Assaggio of Food, Wine & Marriage
- Braised Italian-Style Beef Short Ribs from Hardly A Goddess
- Bruschetta Chicken from Meal Planning Magic
- Bucatini with Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce from The TipToe Fairy
- Orechietti with Broccoli Rabe and Shrimp from Delaware Girl Eats
- Cheesy Gnocchi and Sausage Bake from Confessions of a Cooking Diva
- Classic Vodka Sauce from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Eggplant Parmesan from Rants From My Crazy Kitchen
- Fast Faux-Baked Ziti from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Florentine Pizza from A Mind Full Mom
- Gluten Free Meatballs with Homemade Sauce from Gluten Free Crumbley
- Green and Yellow Artichoke Tortellini with Mushrooms, Pancetta and Spring Peas with White Wine Reduction from Crazy Foodie Stunts
- Grilled Chicken Pesto Panini from Eat, Drink and be Tracy
- Mushroom Bolognese Pasta Recipe from Life Tastes Good
- Parma Rosa Baked Ziti from Palatable Pastime
- Pasta Con Sarde a Mare – Pasta with Sardines at Sea from Caroline’s Cooking
- Pasta e Fagioli from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Penne with Sausage in Creamy Boursin Cheese Recipe from Feeding Big and more
- Pesce all’Aqua Pazza from Monica’s Table
- Polenta-Crusted Italian Sausage Pies from Wholistic Woman
- Pumpkin Agnolotti from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
- Slow Cooker Lasagna from Food Lust People Love
- Stuffed Ravioli in Alfredo Sauce from The Freshman Cook
- Tuscan Kale Pesto Risotto from Cooking Chat
- Tuscan Porterhouse with Balsamic-Rosemary Steak Sauce and Seared Radicchio from The Texan New Yorker
- Tuscan Style Chicken Breasts from Simple and Savory
- Zuppa Toscana from Momma’s Meals
- Italian Berries, Mascarpone and Marsala Budini from La Bella Vita Cucina
- Berry Tiramisu from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Cannoli Poke Cake from Moore or Less Cooking
- Cherry Walnut Biscotti from Pies and Plots
- Chocolate Tiramisu from Renee’s Kitchen Adventures
- Fiordilatte Gelato from Manu’s Menu
- Italian Cream Cheesecake from The Crumby Cupcake
- Lemoncello Tiramisu from The Redhead Baker
- Limoncello Cookies from Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Orange and Almond Ricotta Cheesecake from Pine Needles In My Salad
- Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries from The Chef Next Door
- Salame al Cioccolato (Chocolate Salami) from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Strawberry Panna Cotta from From Gate to Plate
- Tiramisu Semifreddo from Tara’s Multicultural Table
- Wine and Cheese Chocolate Muffins from What Smells So Good?
- Zabaglione Gelato from Magnolia Days
- Bicerin (Italian Coffee) from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Easy Limoncello from Our Good Life
- Liquore all’Alloro from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Sgroppino (Frothy Italian Sorbetto Cocktail) from The Wimpy Vegetarian
And Artichoke Torta plus More Recipes for Italian Fest from Sunday Supper Movement