Cooking with Booze: Homemade Vodka Pasta Sauce

Does anyone else like me get to middle of the week, when around lunchtime you're torn between heating up leftovers, making something out of what you have lying around, or just ordering a stuffed crust pizza? I can't be the only one with this dilemma can I? Well this week it was between a stuffed crust pizza, leftover Brussels sprouts, and making something new out of what I had. So I rolled the dice and the payoff was huge, producing a new favorite dish that will be one of my go-to pasta recipes. Fellas, if you want to impress your vodka-drinking girl, I have the solution for you: A homemade vodka pasta sauce that can be ready by the time you've boiled a pot of water.


Naturally, this was a by-product of making a cocktail. In my fridge, I had a lot of leftover heavy cream after making a Ramos Fizz, which calls for heavy cream (as well as a helluva a lot of other ingredients). In the corner of my kitchen was a vodka bottle, collecting dust since there's a greater likelihood of coming across a unicorn then seeing me drink vodka. And in the cabinet I had a can of tomato puree. So I did a little research and came across this recipe from The Pioneer Woman for pasta alla vodka.

The recipe I made followed The Pioneer Woman's vodka pasta sauce recipe closely, though I added a couple minor changes, such as adding basil (could also use parsley) and used minced garlic that was from Trader Joe's rather then mincing it myself.  I imagine some nice additions would be crushed tomatoes and I don't think any meat lover would turn their nose up at the addition of pancetta. Because pancetta.

But does the vodka really enhance the flavor of the sauce? Like could you tell the difference if vodka wasn't used? According to this article on Serious Eats, it does, working much the same way as ingredients do in cocktails, balancing out the sauce, contrasting with the sweetness of the cream and tomatoes, giving it a little bit of a sharpness. Just be careful not to blast the heat on high, but rather simmer for a few minutes.

This is really one of the easiest recipes to make and won't take any longer then it would to boil water for your pasta. It's essentially broken out into a few different simmering steps: Simmering the onion and garlic in butter and olive oil, simmering vodka, adding tomato sauce (Tomato puree is recommended, since it adds thickness that straight tomato sauce won't), and then finishing by stirring in the heavy cream. I supplemented it with a loaf of french bread that I baked, alternating between dipping it in the vodka sauce and topping it with burrata. And voilà, your date loves you and everyone goes home happy.

Homemade Vodka Pasta Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes; Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 1 pound pasta
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped or minced
  • 14 oz. tomato puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. parsley or basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Chopped tomatoes and/or pancetta


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Add butter, olive oil, garlic, and onions to a pan and heat on medium/low heat for two minutes.
  3. Add in vodka and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Add in tomato puree and stir.
  5. Reduce heat to low and stir in heavy cream, salt/pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer.
  6. When it's to the desired temperature, add in Parmesan cheese slowly until desired consistency is reached.
  7. Stir over pasta, garnish with parsley or basil (and more Parmesan cheese), enjoy, and let the food coma take over.