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Homemade Vodka Sauce

Who doesn’t love homemade vodka sauce? It’s a million times better than the jarred stuff. This sauce is a must-try! The good news is that you can easily replicate your favorite restaurant-style sauce at home (and often do better, honestly).

Picture a luscious, velvety sauce where tomatoes, cream, and vodka combine perfectly. Whether draped over a plate of pasta, generously dolloped onto a pizza, or served as a decadent dipping sauce, homemade vodka sauce makes everything better!

Spoonful of homemade vodka sauce.
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Most of the ingredients for vodka sauce may be things you typically keep on hand. I love to add tomato paste to many of my sauces (like Chicken Riggies), to add depth of flavor associated with long-cooked sauces (without the long cooking).

Ingredients for homemade vodka sauce
Ingredients for homemade vodka sauce (top row): crushed tomatoes, olive oil, vodka; (row two): heavy cream, red pepper flake, onion; (row three), parmesan cheese, garlic; (bottom row); salt/pepper, tomato paste.

How to Make

Here’s a quick visual overview of how to make homemade vodka sauce.

Cooked onions with garlic and spices in saucepan.

Sauté Aromatics and Add Flavor:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté chopped onion until soft and translucent. Stir in minced garlic and red pepper flakes for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Pouring vodka into pot with onions saute.

Deglaze with Vodka:
Pour in vodka and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes to cook off the alcohol and meld flavors. Ensure the alcohol smell dissipates to prevent bitterness.

Stirring vodka into tomato sauce.

Enhance: Incorporate tomato paste, then add crushed tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to thicken and intensify flavor.

Pouring cream into tomato sauce to make homemade vodka sauce.

Enhance with Cream: Reduce heat, add heavy cream.

Adding cream to a small pot of homemade vodka sauce.

Stir Cream: Stir and simmer for five more minutes, avoiding boiling.

Adding cheese to small pot of vodka sauce.

Finish with Cheese: Stir in grated parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

To Serve:
Combine sauce with cooked penne pasta, toss for even coating, and garnish with fresh basil chiffonade.

Small bowl of homemade vodka sauce with penne pasta.


Sausage: Brown Italian sausage or chorizo in a separate pan, then add it to the sauce for a hearty and flavorful twist.

Shrimp or Seafood: Sauté shrimp or your favorite seafood in garlic and butter, then combine it with the vodka sauce for a seafood-inspired delight.

Bacon, Pancetta, or Prosciutto: Crisp up some bacon, crumble it, and sprinkle it over the finished dish for a smoky and savory enhancement.

Top Tips

Quality Ingredients: Start with high-quality canned tomatoes, heavy cream, and vodka for the best flavor and results.

Simmer and Reduce (MUST DO): Allow the vodka to simmer and reduce by about half to concentrate its flavor and cook off the alcohol.

Seasoning: Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning to achieve a well-balanced flavor, and be mindful not to overheat the cream to prevent curdling.

📖 Recipe

Spoonful of homemade vodka sauce.

Homemade Vodka Sauce

Homemade vodka sauce – where these simple ingredients work their delicious magic for a pasta dish that's always a hit! 🍅🍸
5 from 1 vote
Author: Marie
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Meal
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 476 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes adjust to taste
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 can 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • 1 lb penne pasta cooked al dente


Sauté Aromatics:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent.

Add Flavor:

  • Stir in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Deglaze with Vodka:

  • Pour in the vodka and let it simmer for about 3-4 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook off and the flavors to meld. It is essential to cook off the alcohol, or your sauce will be bitter. The alcohol smell should dissipate when it's been cooked off.

Enhance with Tomato Paste:

  • Incorporate the tomato paste into the sauce, stirring well to combine and intensify the tomato flavor.

Incorporate Crushed Tomatoes, Cream and Cheese:

  • Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet and stir well. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken and develop flavor.
  • Reduce the heat to low and pour in the heavy cream. Stir to combine, creating a rich and creamy sauce. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, being careful not to let it boil.
  • Stir in the grated parmesan cheese until it melts into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine Sauce and Pasta:

  • Add the cooked penne pasta to the skillet with the vodka sauce. Gently toss the pasta to ensure it's coated evenly with the sauce.
  • Garnish with chiffonade of fresh basil for a burst of freshness and color.


Calories: 476kcalCarbohydrates: 64gProtein: 14gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 650mgPotassium: 380mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 403IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 144mgIron: 1mg
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