This vodka sauce recipe will dress up any pasta dish and is super easy to make!

This sauce is rich and delicious and it’s easy to make with canned tomatoes, cream, pancetta, and a splash of vodka.

cooked Vodka Sauce with bowl of pasta beside it

An Easy Pasta Sauce

  • Vodka sauce is an Italian-American sauce made with crushed tomatoes, onions, and pancetta and a splash of vodka.
  • Deceptively easy to make, vodka sauce is an impressive sauce for when company comes over! Serve over breaded chicken, sauteed shrimp, or pasta.
Vodka Sauce ingredients with labels

Ingredients for Vodka Sauce

Tomatoes: For the best flavor, choose San Marzano tomatoes (or quality canned tomatoes). Crush the whole tomatoes by squeezing them with your hands.

Pancetta: Pancetta adds a salty, savory flavor. You can replace it with prosciutto, bacon, or Italian sausage.

Dairy: Heavy cream makes a rich sauce that thickens nicely. You can replace it with half and half, but the sauce will be thinner.

Vodka: Since this is a vodka sauce, the vodka is recommended. If you don’t have any, you can use white wine or chicken broth in place.

Herbs: These add flavor. Fresh herbs should be added at the end of cooking while dried herbs should be added at the beginning.

Pasta: I love to use this to make penne alla vodka or toss it with rigatoni, but any pasta works.

How to Make Vodka Sauce

Keep this classic vodka sauce recipe on hand for easy meals!

  1. Cook aromatics: Cook onion in oil until softened and then add pancetta and garlic (recipe below).
  2. Add vodka: Add the vodka and boil.
  3. Simmer the sauce: Stir in both kinds of tomatoes and simmer. Add cream a few minutes before serving.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese and parsley.
Easy Vodka Sauce on pasta

Holly’s Tips

  • Cook pasta until just al dente (firm), and do not rinse it.
  • Add a little pasta water to the sauce, it adds body and allows the sauce to cling to the pasta better.
  • Fresh basil or sauteed zucchini are a great additions.

Storing Vodka Sauce

Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and freeze in zippered bags for up to a month.

Vodka sauce can be made ahead and frozen until ready to use. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator or in a saucepan on low heat. Adjust seasonings before serving.

More Favorite Pasta Sauces

Did you make this Vodka Sauce? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

cooked Vodka Sauce with bowl of pasta beside it
5 from 28 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Easy Vodka Sauce

A creamy and tomato-based pasta sauce with a touch of vodka adds a unique richness and depth to the flavor.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4
Author Holly Nilsson

Equipment

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Ingredients  

  • 28 ounces whole tomatoes with juices canned
  • ½ small onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 4 ounces pancetta chopped, or bacon ½-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • cup vodka
  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated, or romano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Using your hands, squish the whole tomatoes into a bowl to break them up (reserving the juices) and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Stir in the pancetta or bacon and continue cooking until some of the fat has rendered out, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant.
  • Add the vodka and bring to a low boil, let boil uncovered for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the whole and crushed tomatoes (with any juices) and the pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream and simmer for an additional 9 to 11 minutes or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat, and add the parmesan cheese and parsley. Stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Video

Notes

This is enough sauce to toss with 16 oz dry pasta.
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.
San Marzano tomatoes are preferred if you can get them. 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.
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.
5 from 28 votes

Nutrition Information

Serving: 0.25of the recipe | Calories: 510 | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 771mg | Potassium: 846mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1730IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 223mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Easy Vodka Sauce on pasta in a bowl with a title
rich and creamy Easy Vodka Sauce in the pot with writing
easy Easy Vodka Sauce on pasta with writing
Easy Vodka Sauce in the pan and on pasta with a title

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About the author

Holly Nilsson is the creator of Spend With Pennies, where she creates easy, comforting recipes made for real life. With a passion for nostalgic flavors and simplified techniques, Holly helps busy home cooks create delicious meals that always work. She is also the author of “Everyday Comfort,” which promises to inspire even more hearty, home-cooked meals.
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5 from 28 votes (22 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Delicious with the cream and pancetta. Might try bacon next time only because the pancetta was expensive and a few of the bites were a little tough. Easy to make and I’ll definitely be making it again. I’m not sure we’ll have any to freeze, it’s so tasty! Thanks!5 stars

  2. Love, love, LOVE this recipe! I have made it 3 times in the past week due to requests by the family. Not only is it becoming a family favorite but it is becoming a family obsession! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  3. I enjoyed making this recipe for my daughter and I on a cold rainy day in Northeastern Ohio. It was delicious and the house smelled wonderful from all of the aromas. I loved the flavor the smoky pancetta added to the recipe. It’s a keeper. Thank you!5 stars

  4. WOW…what an awesome recipe. My husband and I just loved it. Eat some the next, even better…the ingredients had time to mellow. I will definitely be making this again & again. Thanks for such a really great recipe.5 stars

    1. Hi Rebecca, this recipe should freeze well. Just let it come to room temperature and store it in an airtight container before moving it to the freezer. We would love to hear how it turns out!