Best Vodka Sauce

This vodka sauce recipe is Italian grandmother style, simmered to perfection with tomatoes, garlic, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

Vodka Sauce

There’s value in quick marinara sauces and fast spaghetti recipes. But at the same time, there’s value in simmering to get mega flavor. The secret to Italian grandmother style vodka sauce? Simmer the sauce. For 1 hour! You won’t see a lot of 1 hour simmers over here, since we’re all about fast and easy dinner recipes. But even more than fast and easy, we’re obsessed with flavor. Our best vodka sauce is so full of flavor, it’s worth every second of that simmer.

Best Vodka Sauce Pasta

How to make vodka sauce

What’s a vodka sauce? Vodka sauce is a tomato sauce that’s simmered with vodka, and often mixed with heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Now, why is vodka added to tomato sauce? Essentially: it adds an herbal, peppery undertone to the sauce. There’s a scientific reason too: adding small amounts of alcohol brings out flavors that are hidden within the tomato (read more here). Pretty cool, huh?

Is there alcohol in vodka sauce?

Here’s the question you’re probably wondering: Is there alcohol in this vodka sauce? Can I safely serve it to pregnant women and kids? There’s only trace amounts of alcohol in vodka sauce, so you can serve it to kids and pregnant women. Simmering the vodka for 1 hour cooks off most of the alcohol content. This recipe uses 1/3 cup of vodka. After simmering for an hour, there would be less than the equivalent of a teaspoon of vodka per serving.

How to make vodka sauce step-by-step

To show you exactly how to make this vodka sauce at home, here’s a step-by-step tutorial! You’ll be simmering like an Italian grandmother in no time.

Step 1: Mince the garlic.

There are barely any knife skills involved in this recipe! All you need to do is mince 3 garlic cloves. (Technically, you also have to cut an onion in half and peel it, but we think you can probably handle that one on your own.) But to show you exactly how to mince garlic, we’ve got a tutorial video below!

Step 2: Saute garlic, add all ingredients, and simmer 1 hour.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add the garlic and saute it until it’s lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 28 ounces crushed canned tomatoes, 1/3 cup vodka, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Add 6 whole basil leaves and halved peeled onion. Simmer all the ingredients for 1 hour with the lid tilted, stirring occasionally.

How to Make Vodka Sauce

Step 3: Blend.

Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth! You also can use an immersion blender or stick blender and place it right into the pot.

Sauce in blender

Step 4: Stir in the Parmesan.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese until it melts. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

What people are saying

Though this vodka sauce takes about 1 hour to make, that time is absolutely worth it. Plus, it’s almost all hands off! Take it from one of our readers, L, who said: “I loved the Vodka Sauce and can’t wait to make it again! An hour goes by quickly…especially if you’re a mom.

Vodka sauce pasta

How to serve this vodka sauce

This vodka sauce is perfect for entertaining: what says “you’re special” more than a long-simmered sauce? This recipe is designed to go on 1 pound of any pasta shape that you like! We served it at a Pasta Party on rigatoni in this Vodka Sauce Pasta. Here are a few of our best ideas:

  • Long pasta: Spaghetti or buccatini are fantastic. If you can find it, buccatini has a great texture: it’s basically hollow spaghetti.
  • Short pasta: Any short pasta works: rigatoni, penne, rotini, fussili, shells, farfalle, gigli, or gemelli.

Whatever pasta you use, don’t forget the garnish! Make sure to garnish with finely grated Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. If you’d like, add some torn basil leaves as well: the green makes a beautiful pop against the red vodka sauce!

Need an immersion blender?

An immersion blender is also called a “stick blender” or hand blender. It’s useful for making pureed soups and sauces. Instead of transferring hot soup to a blender and then back, you can just place the stick blender right into the pot! Here’s the immersion blender we use: Immersion blender | Amazon.

This vodka sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Vodka Sauce

Best Vodka Sauce


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (19 votes, average: 4.32 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x

Description

This vodka sauce recipe is Italian grandmother style, simmered to perfection with tomatoes, garlic, butter, and Parmesan cheese.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or best quality crushed tomatoes)
  • 1/3 cup high-quality vodka
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Instructions

  1. Mince the garlic.
  2. Melt the butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vodka, oregano, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt. Stir to combine. Add the whole basil leaves and halved onion and simmer for 1 hour with the lid tilted, stirring occasionally.
  3. After the simmering time, remove the onion. Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender, or use an immersion blender to blend the sauce.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until it melts. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. Makes enough to add to 1 pound pasta.

  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Vodka Sauce, Vodka Sauce Recipe, How to Make Vodka Sauce

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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