The best vodka sauce recipe for every kitchen

The best vodka sauce recipe for every kitchen

As with many Italian-American dishes, the details of the best vodka sauce recipe depend on who you ask. Some cooks use onions for flavor and texture, others say it defeats the purpose of a silky sauce. Traditionalists may find the idea of ​​a red sauce with vodka blasphemous, while adherents believe that vodka sauce is a rightful part of the Italian-American culinary heritage.

Whether you choose to join this debate, or just want a simple dish that’s on the table in 30 minutes or less, this vodka sauce recipe is completely customizable. It doesn’t require pasta water, so feel free to use it on flatbread, with vegetables, or make it well in advance. (Sealed vodka sauce will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months.)

Do you love garlic? Add another clove to the mix. Hate onions? Skip them. Even the drink of the same name can be left out if a non-alcoholic version is better suited to your kitchen.

What is vodka sauce?

Basically, vodka sauce consists of a combination of tomatoes, vodka and cream. There may also be aromatic ingredients such as onions or garlic, and some cooks add butter, Parmesan cheese, and/or chopped herbs such as basil or oregano. Certain recipes require that some of the starch-infused water used to cook pasta be added as a sauce thickener as well.

The purpose of vodka in vodka sauce

“There are many theories about how vodka was used in Italian cooking,” Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli write in Italian American (Clarkson Potter, 2021), a cookbook with a recipe for an unusual white vodka sauce that they compare to Alfredo.

According to legend, in the 1980s, a Roman chef invented a vodka-laden sauce at the behest of a liquor company trying to break into the Italian market. This “may or may not be true,” Rito and Tacinelli write, “but origin story aside, the spirit certainly helps the ingredients emulsify into a smooth sauce.”

In addition to emulsifying the sauce, some cooks find that vodka adds a peppery bite to balance out the tangy tomato and rich cream.

It is worth noting that the alcohol content of the vodka is not completely eliminated when you cook this sauce. So, if you’re serving guests who don’t drink, or just want to make a non-alcoholic version, omit the vodka and replace it with ¼ cup water plus 1-2 drops of white vinegar or a squeeze of lemon.

How do you make the best vodka sauce recipe?


Cooking time

30 minutes.

Portion Size

2 cups


1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ cup onion, finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Kosher salt

1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes

Pinch of dried red pepper flakes

¼ cup vodka

3 tablespoons whipped cream

2 tablespoons butter


Place olive oil, onion and garlic in a medium saucepan and about 1 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Use ¼ cup of water to rinse the tomato can and add it to the sauce. Let simmer, stirring occasionally.

Add vodka, stir and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cream and butter until evenly incorporated. Salt to taste.

Published on June 6, 2022

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