Vodka Sauce

Vodka Sauce

Invariably, you will see Penne alla Vodka on nearly every Italian menu, restaurant or pizzeria.  Its very popular because it is smooth, rich, creamy and is a break from the usual tomato and marinara type pasta dishes.

It is simple enough to make, but it is rich. How rich, is up to you.  You can skip the butter, the extra parmesan cheese, even some of the cream.  However, the vodka is what gives it the flavor, and if booze in your food is of concern, keep in mind nearly all of it will burn off. If you know someone that has issues or is allergic to alcohol, think twice. Otherwise, no one is getting drunk off this dish.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of vodka
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. As with anything in Italian cooking it all starts with olive oil and garlic browning in the pan over medium heat. In this case, add a tablespoon of butter.
  2. Once you see the oil, butter and garlic getting brown, deglaze with about 2 ounces of vodka.  Be careful, the vodka can easily ignite, so keep a pan cover or damp fireproof cloth nearby if the flames get out of hand.  Allow the vodka to burn off.
  3. Add in a pinch of red pepper flakes and the crushed tomatoes along with basil.
  4. While the pasta is boiling, lower the heat on the sauce and add in the cream slowly.
  5. Slowly stir until you see the cream turn the red sauce pink.
  6. As the pasta is finishing cooking, add in some freshly grated cheese. Again, slowly, a small amount at a time. This is key so the cream or cheese does not curdle and form into unappetizing little curds.
  7. Drain the pasta, pour into the pan, continue to mix and fold in all the past until it is completely coated.  Save some of the pasta water in case you want it to be a little more silky.

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