Easy Vodka Sauce (For Pasta Alla Vodka)

This Vodka Sauce recipe is a homemade version of a classic Italian-American sauce. It’s rich, creamy, and perfect served over your favorite gluten free pasta. It’s quick to make, flavor packed, and the most wonderful comfort food!

homemade vodka sauce made for penne alla vodka recipe in a bowl

My Favorite Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

I think of my childhood when I think of pasta with vodka sauce. One of my best friends and I used to order it before our weekly art classes, which made me look forward to art class that much more! There really is nothing better than the rich creaminess of vodka sauce over pasta. It’s a crowd pleaser and total comfort food!

Making it at home is so easy, so today, I bring you a creamy vodka sauce that’s loaded with shallots, basil, and garlic. You can add peas like I love in mine, or leave them out! It’s the perfect homemade vodka pasta sauce recipe and it takes just 10 minutes to prep! Plus, I give you dairy-free options if you need it!

homemade vodka sauce

Ingredients Needed

  • Butter: you can also use oil or vegan butter for a dairy-free option.
  • Garlic: use freshly minced garlic for the best flavor.
  • Shallots: onion will work as well.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: use more or less as desired. Omit it if you really don’t like any spice!
  • Vodka: any variety will work. If you’re making this gluten-free, make sure you use gluten-free vodka.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: You can also use whole canned tomatoes and crush them by hand!
  • Heavy Cream: for that creamy goodness. For a dairy-free option, swap for coconut cream or cashew cream. If using cashew cream, you may need more reserved pasta water.
  • Parmesan Cheese: shred your own cheese for the smoothest texture.
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper: enhances the flavor of the sauce and adds an extra kick of heat.
  • Pasta: anything pasta shape will work but I love pasta with ridges here.
  • Pasta Water: helps smooth out the sauce before serving and let’s you reach your desired vodka sauce consistency!
  • Basil: I love to garnish with fresh basil.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Optional Meat: for a meaty version, add in prosciutto, pancetta, or even bacon. See the recipe card for when to add those!
  • Frozen Peas: peas are optional but give this pasta dish some color, texture, and a boost of nutrition.

Variations For This Vodka Sauce Pasta Sauce

  • Use another meat. Instead of prosciutto, pancetta, or bacon, try adding in another meat such as ground beef, ground pork, Italian sausage, or even add shredded chicken afterwards!
  • Try it in another recipe. This homemade vodka sauce is a great way to switch up any recipe that uses marinara sauce. Try it in lasagna, baked ziti, sweet potato gnocchi, or chicken parmesan!
  • Add veggies. Kick the nutrition up a notch by adding those peas mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, or kale.
  • Gluten-free. Use a gluten-free pasta variety and use gluten-free vodka!
  • Make it dairy-free. Swap the butter out for oil and swap the heavy cream out for coconut cream or cashew cream. If using cashew cream, you may need more reserved pasta water. Omit the parmesan or sub it for a vegan parmesan cheese.
How to Make Vodka Sauce

What is Vodka Sauce?

Vodka sauce is an Italian-American pasta sauce made up of a tomato base, vodka, herbs, and cream. It’s rich, creamy, flavorful, and delicious served over your favorite pasta! And no, you won’t get drunk and it doesn’t taste like booze! 

How to Make Vodka Sauce

This vodka pasta sauce recipe comes together so quickly and easily! 

  1. Sauté aromatics and cook meat: Melt and heat butter, then add in garlic and shallots. Cook until fragrant before adding in pancetta or bacon if using. Stir in red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
  2. Make the sauce: Pour in vodka and crushed tomatoes, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Stir in heavy cream and cheese and mix until smooth. Add peas if using.
  3. Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Combine: Add the cooked pasta to the finished vodka sauce. Add pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached, then season with salt and pepper, garnish with basil, and serve!

What Does the Vodka Do in Vodka Sauce? Does It Taste Like Vodka?

Since the alcohol cooks out, vodka sauce doesn’t taste “booze-y.” Instead, the subtle heat from the vodka balances out the flavor of the tomato paste and cream and helps enhance the overall flavor of the sauce. So no, it doesn’t taste like vodka and it’s kid-friendly!

What Pasta to Use

Anything you want! I love gluten-free penne here. Rigatoni alla vodka or penne alla vodka are two classics, since the ridges on rigatoni noodles help the sauce stick. However, any pasta shape will work. Try it with fusilli, penne, cavatappi, gemelli, gluten-free or not, you name it!

homemade vodka sauce with pasta in a bowl

Tips and Tricks

  • Reserve the pasta water. The starchy water is used to help thicken the vodka sauce and create an even creamier texture.
  • Use freshly grated cheese. Pre-grated cheeses contain an anti-caking agent that can become gritty when melted. I recommend shredding your own for the best texture but you can use either!
  • Let the sauce simmer long enough to cook off alcohol so it doesn’t taste booze-y!
  • If you prefer a completely smooth sauce, blend the canned tomatoes in a food processor before incorporating them into the sauce.
  • If you’d prefer a vodka-free sauce, you can swap the vodka out for lemon water. It won’t have quite the same flavor but will serve a similar purpose.

How to Store Your Vodka Sauce

I recommend storing cooked pasta and vodka sauce separately for the best reheating results! Leftover sauce will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then simmer on the stove until heated. Serve with fresh pasta!

pasta alla vodka on a fork

Serving Suggestions

While this is totally a meal on it’s own, I love to serve this pasta alla vodka next to a protein such as chicken, rotisserie chicken, or even shrimp!

It’s also delicious with a side of garlic bread, roasted vegetables, or air fryer asparagus!

More Pasta Sauce Recipes You’ll Love

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Homemade Vodka Sauce

This Vodka Sauce recipe is a homemade version of a classic Italian-American sauce. It’s rich, creamy, and perfect served over your favorite gluten free pasta. It’s quick to make, flavor packed, and the most wonderful comfort foo

  • Author: Lexi
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stove Top

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 tablespoon butter (see notes for dairy-free)
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced
  • 2  medium shallots or 1 large onion, diced
  • Optional: 1 lb. prosciutto, pancetta, or even bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, omit if you don’t like spice
  • 1/4 cup vodka, gluten-free if needed
  • 1 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (see notes for dairy-free)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, more to taste

  • Optional: 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 16 ounces box of pasta of choice
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water, as needed
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chiffonade for garnish

Instructions

  1. Stir in red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds minute.

  2. Pour in the vodka, scraping browned bits from the bottom of your skillet, then stir in the crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until the tomato sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.

  3. Stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese and mix until smooth. If adding frozen peas, do so here.

  4. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta based on package directions. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water.

  5. Add in pasta to your sauce, adding reserved pasta water as needed, until desired consistency is reached.

  6. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

  7. Serve hot and garnish with parmesan, basil, and additional red pepper flakes if desired.

Notes

  • Use another meat. Instead of prosciutto, pancetta, or bacon, try adding in another meat such as ground beef, ground pork, Italian sausage, or shredded chicken. OR leave it meatless!
  • Try it in another recipe. This homemade vodka sauce is a great way to switch up any recipe that uses marinara sauce. Try it in lasagna, baked ziti, sweet potato gnocchi, or chicken parmesan!
  • Add veggies. Kick the nutrition up a notch by adding those peas mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, or kale.
  • Gluten-free. Use a gluten-free pasta variety and use gluten-free vodka!
  • Make it dairy-free. Swap the butter out for oil and swap the heavy cream out for coconut cream or cashew cream. If using cashew cream, you may need more reserved pasta water. Omit the parmesan or sub it for a vegan parmesan cheese.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 sauce recipe + 4 oz pasta
  • Calories: 681
  • Sugar: 8g
  • Sodium: 740mg
  • Fat: 19g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 97g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Protein: 21g
  • Cholesterol: 55mg

Keywords: how to make vodka sauce, vodka pasta sauce recipe, homemade vodka sauce, pasta alla vodka, rigatoni alla vodka

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22 comments
December 23, 2021

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22 Responses

  1. Love this vodka sauce recipe! I’ve made it twice so far, using the dairy-free variations as my little one has a dairy allergy. We are keeping this recipe on rotation!

  2. Holy sh*t! This is DELICIOUS and so simple!!!!! Came together so fast and literally drooling over a second bowl. Paired with Barilla Protein+ pasta and chicken and it is so fricken good!

  3. This vodka sauce is SO easy, quick, and DELICIOUS! It is so much better than the jarred stuff (no hate on jarred sauce!). Keeping this in my favorite recipes for sure. Do yourself a favor and go make it!

  4. Just ran across this today and I’m tempted to cancel the date with my husband tonight so I can make it! Ok maybe I’ll wait for tomorrow 🙂 Love that Tito’s is gluten free. Thank you for the info!

  5. gluten-free vodka?! Prayers have been answered! Also love love love the recipe. There’s a resto in MTL (I’ll take you there!) that has the best penne alla vodka (we can bring our spiralizers in tow lol) with BYOB and a gajillion types of mussels too. It’s one of my favs!

  6. Zoodles are the best and your homemade pasta sauce alla vodka sauce sounds simply amazing. Is it weird that I didn’t realize that vodka sauce actually had vodka in it? I guess I never really thought about it, but obviously it makes sense.

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