Level up your pasta game with this homemade Vodka Sauce recipe!
This easy red sauce is made with crushed tomatoes, garlic, salty pancetta, and cream. A splash of vodka makes this dish unique.
It’s the perfect sauce to make any pasta dish look and taste restaurant-worthy.
What is Vodka Sauce?
Impress your guests and make this easy to master vodka sauce. Vodka sauce is a richly flavor creamy tomato sauce with bits of onion and pancetta.
This classic Italian-American sauce has a dash of vodka to enhance the flavors of the ingredients as they simmer together. It’s an excellent multi-use sauce that comes together in minutes!
What Does Vodka Sauce Taste Like?
Vodka sauce has a rich and creamy flavor, somewhat of a creamy tomato sauce (with more tomato, less cream). It’s a combination of tomatoes, salty bits of pancetta, and parmesan cheese with a bit of cream for richness.
While vodka is added, the alcohol in the vodka burns off. The flavor is infused into the ingredients giving vodka sauce a rich flavor (but it doesn’t taste like vodka or alcohol). It can be used in any recipe calling for pasta sauce or marinara!
Ingredients in Vodka Sauce
SAUCE Use a can of whole tomatoes (with the tomato juice)! Look for a large can of San Marzano tomatoes as they have a robust flavor with thicker flesh and fewer seeds. Heavy cream and parmesan or romano cheese give the sauce its smooth base.
VODKA No need for a fancy top-shelf vodka, use inexpensive vodka in this recipe.
No vodka? No problem! Use a splash of white wine instead (although it won’t technically be vodka sauce anymore). If you’d like to make this recipe without alcohol, leave the vodka out. It will change the flavor but it will still be delicious.
SEASONINGS Garlic and red pepper flakes add body and a little spice to vodka sauce but feel free to experiment with other Italian seasonings like oregano, basil, or fennel. Try some DIY Italian Seasoning blend for any kind of Italian inspired dish!
PANCETTA Pancetta is cured meat from a pork belly and a common addition to all kinds of Italian recipes. It’s a bit like bacon but cured instead of smoked. Use diced bacon if you can’t find pancetta (although the flavor won’t be quite the same).
Variations & Swaps
- If using diced tomatoes, add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste for some extra richness.
- Swap onions for shallots if you have them on hand.
How to Make Vodka Sauce
It’s easy to make this fancy sauce.
- Cook onion in butter or olive oil. Add pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered.
- Pour in vodka and garlic and cook (per recipe below).
- Remaining ingredients and simmer.
- Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and parsley. Taste and season with kosher salt & black pepper.
Garnish with more parmesan cheese and parsley before serving.
PRO TIP: Break up whole tomatoes by hand before using or with the back of a wooden spoon in the pan.
- Add grilled shrimp, shredded chicken, or Italian sausage if desired.
- While I prefer the sauce to have a little bit of texture from the tomatoes, you can use a hand blender before adding the cheese.
- Save some pasta water, if you mix the sauce with pasta, add a bit of reserved pasta water. Not only does it help with consistency, but the starches also help the sauce cling better.
- Boil pasta in a large pot salted water just until al dente.
Pasta Choices: Vodka sauce is rich and delicious and Penne alla vodka is a favorite for sure! We love shaped pasta with ridges or holes so the pasta clings well. Rigatoni, fusilli, or bucatini are excellent pastas to use!
More Italian Inspired Favorites
- Homemade Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Chicken Piccata
- Eggplant Rollatini
- Homemade Bolognese Sauce (Pappardelle)
- Easy Chicken Marsala Recipe
- Easy Chicken Parmesan
Did you make this Vodka Sauce? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!
Easy Vodka Sauce
- ½ small onion finely diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
- 4 ounces pancetta chopped, or bacon ½" dice
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup vodka
- 28 ounces whole Italian tomatoes with juices canned
- 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or romano cheese
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
- Break up the tomatoes with your hands (reserving juices) and set aside.
- Add onion and olive oil to a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat until onion is softened. Add pancetta and cook 3-4 minutes or until some of the fat has rendered out.
- Add vodka and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook just until fragrant.
- Add tomatoes with juices and pepper flakes. Simmer 10-12 minutes.
- Stir in cream and simmer an additional 7-10 minutes or until thickened.
- Remove from heat, stir in parmesan cheese and parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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