Vodka Sauce Recipe

Vodka Sauce

 The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 80 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Vodka sauce became very popular in the 1970's and 80's in the form of penne alla vodka. Though it's often made with pasta and known as its own dish, the sauce by itself can be used in so many other ways. Essentially, it's a rich tomato sauce, much like marinara, but with the addition of a little butter, cream, and, of course, vodka.

Use the sauce in all the ways you would with a tomato sauce, with meats, grilled fish, or pasta.


  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans good-quality chopped tomatoes
  • 8 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup good-quality vodka
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    vodka sauce ingredients
     Elaine Lemm
  2. Heat a large saute pan or heavy pot to medium heat. Add the olive oil and once it's hot, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and stir together. Let the vegetables cook until softened, around 7 minutes.

    sauted vegetables
     Elaine Lemm
  3. Add the tomatoes, tear the basil leaves and add to the sauce.

    add the tomatoes
     Elaine Lemm
  4. Simmer the sauce until it is reduced and thickened, about 1 hour. Keep an eye on the sauce, stirring from time to time If it begins to dry out, lower the heat slightly.

    cooked vodka sauce
     Elaine Lemm
  5. Lightly blend the sauce with an immersion blender or a couple of pulses in a food processor, taking care not to make the sauce too smooth. It should have a little texture. Add the salt, butter, and cream and stir thoroughly. Finally, add the vodka and stir well. The sauce will go from red to orange, but do not worry this is how it should be. The sauce is now ready to use as you would any other tomato sauce, but with an extra twist.

    creamed vodka sauce
     Elaine Lemm

Recipe Variations

  • As you would with your favorite marinara, pile on the Parmesan. The sharpness of this Italian cheese is a great pairing with the sauce. Pecorino Romano is good, too.
  • The sauce has a rich deep flavor but if you want some heat, spice it up with a few crushed red pepper flakes.

How Much Alcohol Is In Vodka Sauce?

If the thought of adding alcohol to a sauce makes you worry that you will be inebriated, it will not. Most of the alcohol in the vodka will evaporate when the sauce is heated and the subtle flavor of the vodka will remain. Even though majority of the alcoholic content may have cooked off, you may not want to serve this dish to young children as there is most likely still a little alcohol left in the dish.

How to Use Vodka Sauce

A vodka sauce is simply a rich tomato sauce, but with an extra twist of that splash of vodka at the end, so its uses are just the same. Vodka sauce is great with fish, meats, and pasta.