Creamy Vodka Sauce

Basic Italian sauces are one of the things every home cook should master. A nice vodka sauce is among them! Adding cream to it only enhances it’s deliciousness and gives you a recipe that friends and family will be asking for.

creamy vodka sauce in a pan with text overlay for facebook


 

A few weeks ago hubby and I visited his family in Rochester, New York which is rife with Italian restaurants. Sadly, we were there to celebrate a family member who had recently passed. The night we arrived we went to one of their local favorites.

Plagued by indecision, we finally decided to order Chicken Parmesan with Vodka Sauce and let me tell you something, that dish put a smile on each and every face at that table.

Sauce as a Comfort Food

Food has a way of making things better instantaneously and I love that. We had full glasses of wine, delicious penne alla vodka, chicken Parmesan, our favorite garlic bread recipe and shared stories.

Food found a way to bring a close-knit family even closer. For days after our return home, I couldn’t get that dinner out of my mind. It might have been me missing family or missing Rochester, but I was determined to make it.

Creamy vodka sauce with large chunks of pancetta felt like the right kind of comfort and I finally whipped some up for dinner for hubby and I. In fact, I made two dishes that evening, Vodka Sauce and Linguine with Clam Sauce.

Why You’ll Love This Creamy Vodka Sauce

There are many reasons why this great recipe is loved, but here are a few specific reasons why we love it.

  • Delicious – This sauce has the brightness of tomatoes, silkiness from the cream and butter, and just the right amount of saltiness from the pancetta. And, of course, the slight bite from the vodka.
  • Versatile – There are plenty of ways to use this sauce other than with pasta. Plus, while it’s perfect for parties or date night, it’s also a great way to make an easy weeknight dinner.
  • Customizable – You can make your own signature vodka sauce by adding or substituting your favorite ingredients.
close up of vodka cream sauce over pasta in a bowl

Ingredients

These ingredients all mingle together to create a perfectly balanced, creamy sauce.

  • Butter – You can use salted or unsalted butter. If you choose salted, make sure to taste as you go before adding more salt to the sauce.
  • Yellow onion – Dice onions evenly so that there aren’t any large chunks in the sauce. 
  • Garlic – Mince the garlic cloves so that the pieces are fine. You can also use a grater or microplane to achieve perfectly fine slices.
  • Pancetta – You can often find diced pancetta at the grocery store which makes preparation even more of a breeze. If you can’t find pancetta, use prosciutto or ham — country ham will add extra salty flavor.
  • Vodka – Just like when using wine, use a vodka that appeals to your taste buds. If you’re not sure which to choose, try asking a liquor-loving friend who can give some tips. You’ll be surprised at how well a splash of vodka complements the tomato flavor.

  • Petite diced tomatoes – We prefer to use San Marzano tomatoes, but you can choose any brand that you like.
  • Heavy cream – Since this is a creamy sauce, don’t skimp on the fat — make sure to get heavy cream rather than light or half-and-half.
  • Fresh basil leaves – Hand tear this herb for a rustic feel. 
  • Fine sea salt – Add this to taste depending on how much saltiness the butter and the meat bring to the sauce.
  • Ground black pepper – Grind it yourself before adding or use your table shaker.
  • Cooked pasta – If you’re using this sauce over pasta, cook the noodles to al dente just before serving. You can use it with nearly any pasta shape.

How to Make Vodka Sauce

This creamy vodka sauce recipe couldn’t be easier to make. Follow the steps below to learn exactly how.

  • Melt butter. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  • Saute onion, garlic and pancetta. Add onion, sauteing for a few minutes. Add the pressed garlic and pancetta, sauteing for another few minutes.
  • Stir in vodka and tomatoes. After onion and garlic have softened, stir in vodka and crushed tomatoes, bringing to a low a simmer. Allow to reduce and thicken.
  • Add cream, basil and seasonings. Stir in cream, basil, salt and pepper until combined. Toss with pasta, allowing to heat for through.

What to Serve with Creamy Vodka Sauce

Vodka sauce pairs well with any pasta dish, but there are other uses for it, too. 

  • Dipping sauce – Instead of traditional marinara, use this sauce for dipping bread sticks, mozzarella sticks, or warm, crusty bread
  • Pizza topping – Elevate your next at-home pizza with this creamy sauce instead of pizza sauce. 
  • Chicken parmigiana – Top your chicken parmigiana with this silky sauce.
  • Eggs – Make an Italian-American riff on the Middle Eastern dish, shakshuka, by frying up eggs in this vodka sauce.
  • MeatballsHomemade meatballs can be simmered in this delicious sauce too!
  • Vegetables – Toss steamed or grilled veggies in vodka cream sauce to entice even the pickiest eaters.
wooden spoon in pan of vodka cream sauce

Variations

This creamy sauce can be changed up however you like to suit the palates in your house (or for guests). 

  • Heat – Add crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper powder to spice it up. 
  • Liquor – Of course, if you leave out the vodka, it won’t be a vodka sauce. But you can use wine, or cooking wine, instead, for a different flavor.
  • Meat – You can omit the meat or use your favorite meat substitute. Rotisserie chicken would be an easy substitute.
  • Onion – Use a different variety of onion (like white onion or red onion) or substitute onion powder. 
  • Garlic – While we prefer fresh garlic, you can use minced garlic that is jarred as well. 
  • Cheese – You can always add cheese to a sauce. This one is best dressed with fresh parmesan cheese.
  • Oil – Substitute extra virgin olive oil for some of the butter.
  • Consistency – If you want a thinner pasta sauce, try adding a bit of chicken stock or a cup of pasta water to the tomato mixture. If you want a thicker sauce, add some tomato paste — either way, adjust the seasonings to taste.

Make Ahead, Storage and Freezing

Make Ahead: Since the sauce will last for several days in the refrigerator, you can make it ahead. Just heat sauce at a low simmer just before you’re ready to serve.

Refrigerator: After cooling to room temperature, store leftover vodka sauce in the fridge for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

Freezer: Freeze vodka sauce in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag for up to 6 months.

close up of wooden spoon in creamy vodka pasta

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vodka cream sauce made of? 

Vodka sauce is a mixture of tomatoes, traditional Italian herbs and aromatics, vodka, and cream. 

What does vodka cream sauce taste like? 

This silky smooth sauce has bright flavors from the tomatoes and basil rounded out by the fat of the cream and saltiness of the meat.

Why do you put vodka in cream sauce? 

The vodka helps to bring all of the flavors of the sauce together while also remaining somewhat neutral in flavor. The alcohol content cooks out during the cooking process.

collage of vodka cream sauce for pinterest

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close up of penne alla vodka on a plate with text overlay for pinterest
overhead shot of wooden spoon in pan of vodka cream sauce

Creamy Vodka Sauce Recipe

5 from 43 votes
Creamy Vodka Sauce is an easy pasta sauce recipe pancetta, tomatoes and cream. Serve over your favorite pasta like Penne alla Vodka!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, sauteing for 2-4 minutes. Add the garlic and pancetta, sauteing for another 3 minutes.
  • After the onion and garlic have softened, stir in the vodka and crushed tomatoes, bringing to a low a simmer. Allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, basil, salt and pepper until combined. Toss with hot, cooked pasta, allowing to heat for 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
  • If you tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Nutrition

Calories: 727 kcal, Carbohydrates: 36 g, Protein: 12 g, Fat: 46 g, Saturated Fat: 25 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 117 mg, Sodium: 623 mg, Potassium: 752 mg, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 11 g, Vitamin A: 1668 IU, Vitamin C: 20 mg, Calcium: 122 mg, Iron: 4 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 727
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: penna alla vodka sauce, vodka sauce
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!

 

Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    The vodka adds a unique depth of flavor and the creaminess is on another level. Highly recommend trying this recipe out!

  2. 5 stars
    Yum!! This sauce turned out to be so easy, creamy and flavorful!! It made for a delicious dinner tossed with pasta and served with some garlic bread on the side!

  3. 5 stars
    Wow – this vodka sauce has just the right blend of creaminess and tomato goodness! It’s my new go to pasta sauce!

  4. 5 stars
    Yum! I’ve had vodka sauce before but never a creamy version – this was delicious. Will definitely be making again!