Our creamy vodka sauce is perfect for pasta, pizza, grilled veggies, and more. If it works with spaghetti sauce or marinara, vodka sauce can up the ante! It brings a rich and luxurious vibe to any dish. Plus, you can freeze it for later use, which always comes in handy for busy nights. For those avoiding alcohol, we’ve got simple vodka substitutes that keep all the deliciousness without the booze. Skip the jarred version and make this one at home.

This recipe is for the sauce. We also have a complete recipe for penne alla vodka as well if you are looking for the classic pasta.

Why Our Recipe

  • Perfect for pasta, as a pizza sauce, or even drizzled over grilled vegetables.
  • Simple alternatives for those avoiding alcohol, without compromising flavor.
  • Ready in 30 minutes and can easily be frozen for later use.

A close up view of a ladle full of homemade vodka sauce.

Although vodka sauce might seem like a traditional Italian sauce, its actually quite a recent culinary development. Some claim it originated in Italy during the 1970s, while others believe it made its debut in New York around the same era.

Ingredient Notes

  • Olive Oil: Can use regular olive oil or extra virgin. Since it’s cooked, regular is fine.
  • Onion: Use a yellow or white onion. You’ll only need 1 cup of diced onion, which is about 1 small onion. Mince the onion if you don’t like it chunky.
  • Garlic: Use fresh minced garlic for the best flavor. You could get away with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a pinch, but it just won’t have the same Italian flavor.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: This sauce traditionally has a kick of heat, but you can always adjust this amount up or down to your personal taste preferences.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Preserved tomatoes in a can are best for sauce making because they have better preserved flavor than store-bought shipped from a farm. Use unseasoned to control the flavor.
  • Vodka: The alcohol cooks off, so this is safe for anyone to eat. Use whatever vodka you have on hand or prefer as long as it is unflavored.
  • Heavy Cream: You could get away with half-and-half, but it won’t be as thick or creamy.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Use freshly grated so that it will melt. Pre-grated parmesan has an additive that prevents clumping during transit but causes a lot of clumping in melting.

Let’s Talk About Vodka

Vodka sauce isn’t about the booze. In fact, most of the alcohol cooks off making this perfectly safe to feed to anyone, including children. Nobody is getting tipsy here! It’s used to enhance the flavor of the other ingredients. It helps to unite the tomatoes and cream into a smooth, cohesive sauce. Most of the alcohol evaporates during cooking, leaving just a subtle sharpness that balances the richness of the cream.

Vodka Substitutes

If you prefer to avoid alcohol, you can substitute the vodka with an equal amount of vegetable broth or water with a squeeze of lemon juice. It won’t be quite the same, but it still works!

An overhead view looking into a pot of homemade vodka sauce.

Ways to Use Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce isn’t just for penne alla vodka! Here are some delicious ways to use this rich and creamy sauce:

  • Pizza: Spread it over pizza crust for a luxurious creamy pizza pie.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Drizzle over grilled vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, or eggplant for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Lasagna: Use it as your sauce in lasagna for a creamy variation.
  • Chicken Parmesan: Pour it over breaded chicken cutlets and top with mozzarella and Parmesan for a delicious chicken parmigiana alla vodka.
  • Baked Ziti: Use it as your sauce in a baked ziti.
  • Seafood Pasta: Toss it with shrimp, scallops, or crab for a luxurious seafood pasta dish.
  • Meatballs: Serve it as a sauce for meatballs, whether they’re beef, pork, or chicken.
  • Stuffed Peppers: Use it as a sauce for stuffed bell peppers for a creamy and flavorful finish.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Refrigerate any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Reheat in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of cream or milk if needed to maintain the sauce’s creamy texture.

Freeze in an airtight container or plastic freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat over medium-low heat on the stovetop, adding a bit of cream or milk to restore the creamy consistency.

More delicious pasta sauces…