Have you ever had vodka sauce before? It's something that everybody here enjoys on the pasta and is easy to make homemade. In a restaurant it is often served with penne pasta, but we mix it up here. It is really good on homemade pasta too!
We have had this many times - homemade, jarred and from restaurants. It is all good, tho sometimes a little thicker in the restaurant. The jarred vodka sauce is pretty good, but not as good as homemade. We make mostly homemade sauces here. You might also like pumpkin pasta sauce and homemade lasagna sauce
Tips for making creamy vodka sauce
One thing I have been asked by people when I tell them I make my own sauce is "do you really use vodka?" Yes, we do!
This is so much easier then you would think, but you do need two things for it - vodka and parmesan cheese. I really don't recommend the bottled cheese for this, tho it is usable. You will have a different taste then fresh grated or shredded.
Olive oil is also preferred, but you can use the oil of your choice. You will use it to saute your onions before adding the vodka. You want your onions to start to become translucent and we like a slight browning on them and some of the garlic. Do be careful tho as garlic will burn a little quicker once it starts to brown.
See the little bit of brown pieces in the picture? That looks to be about perfect. The vodka gets added and you simmer for about 2 minutes before adding the rest.
The tomatoes and sauce
We like to use diced tomatoes and sauce, but we have even made it with puree before. Sometimes you are limited with ingredients that are available.
You will want to add the tomatoes and sauce to the vodka, onions and garlic. I also add the salt and basil at this time. As a note tho, we use unsalted tomatoes so you may want to adjust the amount of salt you put in your sauce if using regular tomatoes. It is best to let this simmer for about 20 minutes to get the flavor of the garlic throughout and the bitterness of the tomatoes out.
This is completely optional, but it is a traditional way to serve it in the restaurants. We also think sausage goes best with homemade vodka sauce, but you might want it without.
I find that if you cook the sausage before the sauce and set aside, it works best. It keeps the grease out of your sauce. Here we simmer sausage in enough water to cover it for about 10 minutes (or we grill it when it's nice.) Once cooked, I remove from pan and set aside to cut up.
The sausage gets added with the tomatoes and sauce.
The cream and the cheese
The sauce simmers for about 20 minutes and then you add the cream. After adding the cream it isn't an exact science as I have cooked it for 2 minutes and I have cooked it for 10 minutes - both get the same flavor, but it will get a little thicker cooking longer. The important step for the flavor is simmering before adding cream.
The cheese gets added in just before removing from the heat. Stir it in, cook about a minute and remove from heat.
Creamy vodka sauce is often served over penne pasta, but we used bowties here. We cook our pasta in the Instant Pot unless we make homemade pasta, it is easier then boiling it 🙂
Frequently asked questions
Does the brand of vodka matter?
If you have a favorite, use that. I wouldn't recommend the cheapest (might affect taste), but you don't need the most expensive either. They recommended Svedka and I buy it in the 200 ml bottle here it is around $5 for that bottle. It's enough for 2 batches of sauce. I don't drink it so I asked the liquor store clerk which one they would recommend and it turned out good.
Do I have to use fresh parmesan?
I highly recommend it. We buy it in a block and keep it in the fridge. It will not turn out the same at all with bottled cheese.
Do I have to use tomatoes and sauce?
You can substitute for all sauce or puree, but the diced tomatoes give it better flavor and texture. All diced tomatoes will probably be too thin, but I haven't tried that. The best we have found is mixing diced tomatoes and sauce.
How long does it last in the fridge?
Leftovers need to be refrigerated promptly and it should be used within 3-4 days.
Will I get drunk eating homemade vodka sauce?
I have been asked this a couple times. No, the alcohol evaporates in the cooking process. You will not get any effects of alcohol from eating sauce cooked with vodka.
Homemade Creamy Vodka Sauce
- 1 lb sausage links or ground
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 100 ml vodka about ½ cup
- 1 tsp salt see notes
- 1 tsp basil dried, or 2 tsp fresh basil
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes no salt added, see notes
- ⅓ cup heavy cream can use half and half
- ½ cup parmesan cheese loosely packed - see notes
- If you are adding sausage, you will want to cook this first before adding to the sauce. Both bulk sausage and links are good. Cook, remove from pan and set aside until ready to add it.
- Heat up the sauce pan. Add the olive oil and onions. Saute for about 3 minutes or until they are starting to become translucent.
- Add in the minced garlic and saute about 2 minutes. We like to see the garlic and onions get a slight brown in spots, but be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Carefully pour in the vodka and stir. Cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add in the diced tomatoes, sauce, basil and salt. Stir well.If adding sausage, put it in the sauce now.Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Pour in the cream and cook for about 2 minutes.Add in the cheese and stir. Cook for about 1 minute before removing from heat and serving.