The Best Homemade Vodka Sauce Recipe
This homemade vodka sauce recipe is guaranteed to be the best you’ll ever try. It is an easy recipe with only six ingredients that came straight from my neighbor’s Italian mother. This rich pink sauce is traditionally served over penne pasta, hence the name Penne Alla Vodka. But this tomato cream sauce is delicious over any kind of regular or gluten free pasta, or even zoodles for an easy low carb dinner.
Originally published Apr 3, 2016
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. The restaurants are run by families who, if they weren’t from Italy themselves, were only a generation or two removed from Italian immigrants. So while Italian-American cuisine does have some differences from authentic Italian dishes, the roots of these recipes are the same.
Secondly, 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. One time, that pasta was topped with a pile of fresh white truffles because, of course, it was prime truffle season.
I’ve ordered pizza out of a window where you tell them about what size slice you want and you pay by weight. And I’ve had antipasti brought to my 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.
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. And gelato, well, let’s not even go there.
So now, when people talk about their favorite “pizza” place, the ones that rhyme with Geronimos or Shmizza Putt, or rave about the never-ending pasta bowl from the “Garden”, I literally can’t even deal.
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. Other than that, I am making Italian food at home or searching out a local hole in the wall Italian joint. One 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, like when I have to turn the Best Lasagna Recipe Ever into Gluten Free Lasagna. But it’s made from the heart. Which, if you’ve ever been to Italy or you know an Italian-American family, is truly what makes their food so special and delicious.
This incredibly delicious classic vodka sauce recipe comes directly from my old next-door neighbor’s Italian mama.
What is Vodka Sauce?
This Classic Vodka Sauce recipe is so easy to make, and it is a staple on the menus of many Italian joints in New Jersey. It’s basically a tomato cream sauce, but with it a little something extra. You’ll start with a simple tomato sauce and make it extra creamy with butter, heavy cream, parmesan cheese.
Yes, this homemade vodka sauce recipe is sinfully rich. I mean, we are talking cream and butter and cheese kinda rich. Personally, I think a little of this sauce on my noodles goes a long way. So the indulgence is totally okay with me every once in a while.
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.
Is there vodka in vodka pasta sauce?
Yes, there is vodka in vodka sauce. This is what differentiates it from a basic pink sauce or tomato cream sauce.
Why does vodka sauce have vodka? Does vodka sauce taste like vodka?
The vodka in vodka sauce actually does have a purpose. It actually helps to emulsify the water in the tomato sauce with the fat from the cream and butter. Thus making for a smoother sauce, as well as enhancing the flavors. And the tangy zing balances the richness of the dish.
Also, as it cooks, the alcohol evaporates. So while it does not taste like vodka, the evaporation of the alcohol helps carry the aromas into the air. This helps to both intensify and balance the flavors.
How much vodka is in vodka sauce?
This recipe makes about twelve servings and calls for a total of two-thirds of a cup of vodka. However, for those who are concerned, nearly all of the alcohol evaporates in the cooking process. So no, you won’t get drunk from eating pasta with vodka sauce.
How to Make Vodka Sauce
It only takes a few ingredients and a few minutes to make this luxurious sauce:
- Melt butter in a saucepan.
- Add the vodka and red pepper flakes.
- 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 until slightly thickened.
- Stir in the cream and cook to heat through.
- Stir in the cheese.
How do you serve vodka sauce?
Vodka sauce has so much flavor that you can simply serve it as-is over pasta or zoodles for a fabulous meatless meal. In fact, the traditional way to enjoy it is penne with vodka sauce, where penne pasta is simple coated with this delicious sauce, and then simply topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
If you are looking to add more protein, tt’s great with bits of crispy prosciutto, sliced sausage, or sliced grilled chicken if you want some meat, or shrimp for a seafood dish.
And peas or broccoli are also a common and tasty addition, especially if you like to add some vegetables and a little pop of color.
Is vodka sauce gluten free?
Yes, vodka sauce is gluten free. The ingredients are:
- Butter – naturally gluten free.
- Vodka – vodka is typically distilled from raw foods like potatoes and corn, meaning it is gluten free. However, some brand are distilled from the gluten grains of wheat, barley, and rye. While the distillation process removes the alcohol from the gluten, some Celiacs may have an adverse reaction to it. However, there are many brands of gluten-free vodka available, such as Tito’s, Smirnoff, Ciroc, Dixie, Deep Eddy, and Crystal Head, to name a few.
- Red pepper flakes – most brands are gluten free, just be sure to check it is not a brand that adds and gluten-containing fillers for flowability.
- Canned crushed tomatoes – again, most brands are gluten free. I recommend Tuttorosso Canned Crushed Tomatoes. It has been my favorite for years and is the only one I use in this recipe.
- Heavy cream – naturally gluten free.
- Grated parmesan cheese – either freshly grate it yourself, buy store-grated parmesan cheese, or be sure to check that no fillers are added that contain gluten.
Then serve over your favorite gluten free pasta or zoodles for a delicious gluten free pasta dinner!
What are other pasta and sauce recipes?
- Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Casserole
- Italian Noodle Casserole
- Vegan Vegetable Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas
- Cauliflower Pumpkin Alfredo
- Bucatini with Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce from The TipToe Fairy
What can you serve with pasta and vodka sauce?
- Roasted Balsamic Vegetables
- Meatballs with Red Gravy
- Italian Wedge Salad
- Spinach Artichoke Cauliflower Breadsticks
- Rosemary Focaccia from Curious Cuisiniere
- Tomato Caprese with Burrata from Casa de Crews
Classic Vodka Sauce Recipe
A rich pasta sauce recipe that takes only minutes to make, but tastes amazing. A basic tomato sauce becomes even more creamy and delicious with the addition of butter, cream, and parmesan cheese. And, of course, a little vodka to enhance all the flavors. Serve it over noodles or zoodles as-is, or add chicken, shrimp, prosciutto, peas, or broccoli.
I hope you’ll leave a comment and give the recipe a FIVE STAR rating. And share a photo of it on this pin, over on Pinterest!
Classic Vodka Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 ounces or 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.