Vodka Sauce

This recipe comes from the Kristy Murray’s beautiful blog Linger a Little, one of my favorites. It’s called Olivia’s Vodka Pasta Sauce, or Penne ala Vodka. She doesn’t mention who Olivia is, but she must be “of age.”

According to Kristy, “This recipe elevates tomato pasta sauce to new culinary heights. With heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, and of course vodka. Olivia’s Vodka Sauce is so ridiculously good, you could drink it from a cup.”

I have never previously made vodka sauce. It seemed odd to me. Maybe because vodka belongs in a glass?! And as much as I do drink alcohol in various forms, I don’t like anything really strong, which is maybe why I was put off from the idea of vodka in a red sauce.

However, back 2020 and 2021 when I had thumb surgeries, and really couldn’t cook much – more specifically, couldn’t chop anything – I gave in and tried out some prepared red sauces. And, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here is one that I really liked – Yo Mama’s, from Amazon of course. So that’s when I realized how good a vodka sauce is!

The vodka doesn’t make the sauce “hot” like I expected it to be. But it adds a nice warmth.

Olivia’s Vodka Sauce
Slightly adapted

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 large sweet onions, chopped
1 whole bulb garlic, peeled, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup vodka
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 ounces finely grated Parmesan
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
Ricotta, to garnish
Basil leaves, to garnish
Cooked pasta of choice

Heat a heavy bottom Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until onions are tender but not browned. Add the garlic to the onions and sauté for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vodka, scraping up any particles on the bottom of the pot. Then add the crushed tomatoes.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add water to prevent the sauce from being too thick. Add the cream and stir, then add the Parmesan, the basil, the dried herbs, sugar, garlic and onion powders, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a low boil, then simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

To serve, add vodka sauce to to the cooked pasta in a pasta bowl. Add a dollop of ricotta, and garnish with julienned basil leaves.

By Published On: February 18th, 202245 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

45 Comments

  1. Tandy I Lavender and Lime February 18, 2022 at 11:19 PM - Reply

    This is a must try recipe for sure!

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 7:28 AM - Reply

      I’m so glad I made it, and ignored “vodka” in the name!

  2. neil@neilshealthymeals.com February 19, 2022 at 1:48 AM - Reply

    Vodka isn’t a spirit we usually have in the house. However Lynne got a bottle of it for Christmas that’s just sitting at the back of the cupboard. Now I know how to put it to good use. I always like to make my own pasta sauces rather than shop bought. Must give this one a try!

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 7:29 AM - Reply

      Home made is always better, I say. But when I couldn’t use my thumbs, I did discover some very good products, like prepared red sauces. Besides, they can always be tweaked a bit!

  3. BERNADETTE February 19, 2022 at 8:16 AM - Reply

    Wonderful post. Don’t you love those Jersey Fresh canned tomatoes?

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 8:44 AM - Reply

      I order the crushed tomatoes by the case! I like them better than San Marzano!

  4. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen February 19, 2022 at 1:21 PM - Reply

    I love a vodka sauce, but I always think it is about the cream! Vodka is not supposed to have much flavor, right? Isn’t it what was slipped into the punch bowls at the high school dances…

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 2:41 PM - Reply

      I was surprised at how really good it turned out! It’s a great recipe.

  5. Jean February 19, 2022 at 1:56 PM - Reply

    I can’t remember the last time I made vodka sauce but your pictures have me wanting to have some soon. I love the sauce’s creaminess.

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 2:40 PM - Reply

      I’m so glad I gave it a try! And it’s a great recipe.

  6. cookingwithauntjuju.com February 19, 2022 at 4:27 PM - Reply

    I love this sauce and as yet have not made it – just enjoyed it at a friend’s. That’s a lot of vodka for this sauce :)

    • Chef Mimi February 19, 2022 at 5:32 PM - Reply

      I know. And it doesn’t exactly get cooked! But it really adds a nice warmth, like sitting by a fire!

  7. Ann Coleman February 19, 2022 at 9:07 PM - Reply

    I love a good vodka sauce! And I’m embarrassed to say that I was over thirty before I tasted it for the fist time!

    • Chef Mimi February 20, 2022 at 8:37 AM - Reply

      Well I think I was too! It kinda sounds scary, right?!!

  8. dawnyucuiscooking February 20, 2022 at 9:06 AM - Reply

    I have never cooked with vodka, but after reading your post I have to try it. The sauce sounds delicious!

    • Chef Mimi February 20, 2022 at 9:11 AM - Reply

      I was really surprised at how good it tasted! It had a nice warmth to it, but not like drinking a cocktail!

  9. David Scott Allen February 20, 2022 at 2:31 PM - Reply

    This looks fabulous (minus the garlic). The last time I made vodka sauce was in 1998 when we rented a villa in Tuscany. I should make it again. Yours recipe is much more complex than the one I used, and I think it would make a big difference.

    • Chef Mimi February 20, 2022 at 3:07 PM - Reply

      Show off!!!! It’s a really great recipe! Love your new pic!

  10. Ronit Penso Tasty Eats February 20, 2022 at 6:37 PM - Reply

    I haven’t made this sauce in a long time, and as much as I can recall, I didn’t use 1 cup of vodka, but I like the idea very much! Time to make it again. :)

    • Chef Mimi February 21, 2022 at 7:32 AM - Reply

      I was so tempted to use less, but I’m glad I followed the recipe!

  11. sherry February 21, 2022 at 4:48 AM - Reply

    i don’t really like pasta or tomatoes so the vodka will have to do for me :-)

    • Chef Mimi February 21, 2022 at 7:31 AM - Reply

      Hahahahahaha! Well, enjoy!

  12. Eva Taylor February 21, 2022 at 6:11 AM - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful! A really good one is TDF!

    • Chef Mimi February 21, 2022 at 7:31 AM - Reply

      And I now know that your statement is true!

  13. David @ Spiced February 21, 2022 at 6:14 AM - Reply

    I agree with you, Mimi – for years, I looked at vodka sauce with a raised eyebrow as it just felt like the wrong combination of ingredients. However, a good homemade vodka sauce truly is delicious! I’ll have to try this version sometime soon!

    • Chef Mimi February 21, 2022 at 7:31 AM - Reply

      Exactly. It just sounds off. Madeira, Marsala, sherry… yes, but vodka?!!! This is a really good recipe!

  14. terrie gura February 21, 2022 at 3:28 PM - Reply

    I’m one of those who does enjoy (certain) boozy flavors in my food, but vodka sauce had always perplexed me because restaurant versions I had tried tasted strong and strange. But I also had a happy surprise from a jarred version and now I’m willing to try it again! The secret must be in the simmering time. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Chef Mimi February 21, 2022 at 4:05 PM - Reply

      Well strong and strange sounds awful! This recipe is wonderful; I’m making it again.

  15. Debra February 21, 2022 at 6:26 PM - Reply

    This sounds delicious to me, Mimi! I love the comment that it’s so rich you could drink it! I can imagine that is true! :-)

    • Chef Mimi February 22, 2022 at 8:18 AM - Reply

      It was definitely drinkable!!!

  16. Hannah Kaminsky February 22, 2022 at 9:11 AM - Reply

    You must be reading my mind! I just did a ghost writing piece about vodka sauce. Must be something in the air!

    • Chef Mimi February 22, 2022 at 6:04 PM - Reply

      It’s so good!

  17. kitchenriffs February 23, 2022 at 9:56 AM - Reply

    I haven’t made vodka sauce in ages! Need to make it again — it’s good. It was a really popular restaurant dish in the late 80s, early 90s (at least in the NYC area), but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen in on a restaurant menu. Anyway, yours looks great — thanks.

    • Chef Mimi February 23, 2022 at 10:07 AM - Reply

      I wasn’t aware of that! But I was mostly ion Texas for the 80’s. I was honestly surprised at how good it turned out!

  18. For the Love of Cooking February 23, 2022 at 11:32 AM - Reply

    One of my favorite pasta sauces. Yum!

    • Chef Mimi February 23, 2022 at 3:13 PM - Reply

      I’m so glad I finally tried it, and finally made it!

  19. Greg Henry February 23, 2022 at 3:06 PM - Reply

    Vodka sauce never appealed to me much (for the reasons you stated). So I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it. It seems cream forward here and I like that. GREG

    • Chef Mimi February 23, 2022 at 3:12 PM - Reply

      Well I’m glad I’m not the only one! Vodka belongs in cocktails with Fresca!!! But it is good. Maybe try a half a batch…

  20. thatskinnychickcanbake February 23, 2022 at 6:06 PM - Reply

    This is a family favorite—especially with my picky daughter! That vodka works it’s magic—it tastes way better than it sounds!

    • Chef Mimi February 24, 2022 at 9:52 AM - Reply

      It definitely does taste better than it sounds!

  21. Raymund February 23, 2022 at 7:30 PM - Reply

    This is the way I like it, garlicky!!! Love it

    • Chef Mimi February 24, 2022 at 9:52 AM - Reply

      I’m so sad for people who are allergic to garlic.

  22. Valentina February 24, 2022 at 10:46 AM - Reply

    So funny, I’ve seen vodka sauce my whole life — in the store, on menus, and never did I know exactly what was in it! In fact, I wondered if it actually had vodka in it. No idea why. Anyway, I’m trying it. With two teenage boys who love pasta, I’m sure it’ll be a hit. :-) ~Valentina

    • Chef Mimi February 24, 2022 at 11:09 AM - Reply

      Well, it certainly turned me off, but I’m glad I finally tried it, and made it!

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