This homemade Vodka Sauce recipe is restaurant quality and easy to make. Creamy Italian tomato sauce with heavy cream, vodka, tomatoes, and crushed pepper flakes.
Move over Easy Marinara Sauce, this quick and easy Vodka Sauce is going to be your new go-to sauce for all your favorite Italian Recipes!
A traditional Vodka Sauce has three major components that all work together to make a silky, unbelievably creamy tomato sauce: Italian tomatoes, heavy cream, and vodka. With just a few other ingredients to add subtle flavor and spice, this slow simmered sauce is sure to your new favorite new recipe.
Now, if this is your first time making Vodka Sauce, you might be hesitant about using a full cup of vodka. To address the elephant in the room… no you cannot get drunk off this sauce and in fact it won’t taste like vodka at all.
The vodka serves to help the acidic tomato sauce and the heavy cream emulsify aka come together in a creamy balance instead of separating like oil and vinegar. The alcohol burns off while the sauce simmers, just like cooking with wine. And just like wine, the vodka brings out the flavors of the tomatoes in Vodka Sauce.
To make this Vodka Sauce recipe easier, you are using crushed tomatoes. No need to use a blender or wait for fresh tomatoes to break down. Canned tomatoes mean you can make it any time you get a craving. If you want to use whole canned tomatoes, check out the variations below for how to adjust this recipe.
Use this creamy easy Vodka Sauce in all your favorite Italian recipes, like Meat Lasagna, Baked Spaghetti, or Chicken Parmesan. It makes a delicious dipping sauce for Garlic Bread or Cheesy Pepperoni Bread. Spread Vodka Sauce on Pizza Dough and top with shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto for gourmet Italian-American pizza!
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Penne alla Vodka
To make Penne Alla Vodka, cook 8 ounces penne to al dente and drain, reserving some pasta water. Return pasta to pan over low heat and toss with sauce in ½ cup amounts, adding pasta water as needed, until pasta is fully covered by a thick, creamy sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.
Slow Cooker Vodka Sauce
Easily adjust this recipe for the slow cooker. Sauté onions in butter with seasonings like usual. Add to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients except for the heavy cream. Stir to combine, then cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Bring heavy cream to room temperature, then add in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Serve over pasta with parmesan cheese.
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VARIATIONS ON VODKA SAUCE
- Meat: Make this a meaty Vodka Sauce and add cooked Italian sausage, crispy pancetta, or Meatballs in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Tomatoes: To swap in canned whole plum tomatoes, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend about half of the tomatoes midway through cooking. Sauté a tablespoon tomato paste with the onions to give a robust tomato flavor.
- Heavy Cream: You can lighten up this recipe a little and use half and half instead of the heavy cream. To make this sauce richer, add creme fraiche in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
- Olive Oil: Another way to lighten up this recipe is to swap olive oil for the butter. Be sure to use extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Spicy: You can leave out the red pepper flakes if you aren’t a fan of the spicy heat. Increase the red pepper flakes or use cayenne pepper to taste for a bolder, spicer sauce!
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HOW TO STORE VODKA SAUCE
- Serve: Vodka Sauce can be at room temperature up to 2 hours before it should be refrigerated.
- Store: Keep Vodka Sauce in an airtight container, like a glass jar, and refrigerate up to 1 week.
- Freeze: Cool completely before freezing in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Thaw Vodka Sauce in the refrigerator overnight before reheating on the stovetop.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion , chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup vodka
- 56 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Melt butter in dutch oven on medium heat with onions, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes on medium heat.
- Cook for 6-8 minutes until onions just start to caramelize.
- Add in vodka and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir well until butter is mixed in.
- Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce back to medium heat and cook for 30 minutes.
- Stir in heavy cream and cook an additional 30 minutes.
This recipe is so simple to make and yet is BETTER than restaurant quality! It now sets the bar for my family when we eat out, and we have not found another restaurant whose penne a la vodka tops this (and we live in NYC)! I have made this recipe at least a half dozen times. The only bad thing is that now the secret is out and I am requested by my family and friends to make this for all our gatherings! This recipe is one that will be passed down through the generations. Thank you, Sabrina!
Aww, thank you for your kind words. So glad you and your family are enjoying the recipe!
I’m trying this for the first time. How much extra virgin olive oil would you sub for the butter?
Also, is there a difference if I don’t cook this in a Dutch oven?
I am so sorry, I am just seeing this tonight. I am sure the recipe has long been cooked/or not but I still want to try to help.
You should be able to sub in 6 tablespoons olive oil for the butter. The Dutch oven is definitely better for cooking but it’s definitely possible to cook in a regular pot, you might just have to cook for longer.
Loved this recipe. You did not say when to put the vodka in. Iput it in with the crushed tomatoes. It tasted fine but, i don’t it that was correct.
So sorry I must have missed step 3!
No worries. I hope you enjoy it!
When do you put in the vodka? I don’t see it in the instructions. thank you.
Love your recipes. I’m thinking that the vodka to make you vodka sauce needs to be added around the time of the rushed tomatoes but it doesn’t show up in your directions.
Thank you for catching that! I’ve edited it to include it now.
1.Melt butter in dutch oven on medium heat with onions, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes on medium heat.
2.Cook for 6-8 minutes until onions just start to caramelize.
3.Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir well until butter is mixed in.
4.Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce back to medium heat and cook for 30 minutes.
5.Stir in heavy cream and cook an additional 30 minutes.
I cut and paste this from your recipe…. where does it say when to add vodka
Great catch! Thank you so much for letting me know. I just edited it to read correctly now.
At what step do you add the vodka? It is not in the instructions.
Thank you, your recipes are AMAZING!
I’m so glad you’re loving the recipes! I just edited it to include that step. Sorry it was left out.