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Vodka Sauce

Cooks in 40 minutes Difficulty Easy

Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Recipe by thesal28_wpCourse: MainCuisine: Italian AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Cooking time



Growing up in New York, Penne a la Vodka was a staple at any event catered by an Italian restaurant (of which almost all were). Sports banquets, graduation parties, First Holy Communions…they all had that trusty aluminum pan filled to the brim with this creamy orange goodness. Lately, I’ve been seeing Vodka Sauce return to fancy restaurant menus, which delights me immensely.

Vodka Sauce isn’t particularly difficult to make, but I do make the following recommendations:

1. Buy the best tomato paste you can afford. I prefer an imported Italian tomato paste such as Mutti or Pomi, or one made from San Marzano tomatoes. They just tend to be made from of higher quality, sweeter tomatoes.

2. Take the time to caramelize the tomato paste. It really gives the sauce a depth of flavor that is unmatched.

3. Don’t skimp on the heavy cream and the sugar. This is an indulgent dish and deserves to be enjoyed fully. Any attempts to make it “healthier” will just make it lackluster. If you’re gonna go for it, go for it all the way!


  • 1 can of tomato paste (4-5 oz. size), imported from Italy, if possible

  • 12 oz. tomato purée 

  • 8 oz. heavy cream

  • 2 oz. vodka

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 1 small onion, finely diced

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • black pepper

  • red pepper flakes

  • Parmesan cheese

  • 12 oz. pasta, cooked


  • Add olive oil and garlic to a 4 qt pot and place over medium heat. Once garlic begins to sizzle, add onion and a pinch of Kosher salt. Saute onion and garlic until softened, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and turn heat to medium low. Cook tomato paste and onion mixture until slightly caramelized, at least 5 minutes, but ideally 15 minutes more, stirring every five minutes or so. Add vodka and stir to loosen up all the caramelized bits. Raise temperature to medium high heat to cook off the majority of the vodka. Reduce heat back to medium, add tomato purée, sugar, heavy cream and stir to combine. Simmer for about 5 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  • *Before draining pasta, reserve about 1 cup pasta water. Prior to saucing pasta, add about 1/2 cup pasta water to sauce and whisk to combine. Add drained pasta to sauce and stir to coat noodles. Plate pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes for heat.

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