Homemade Vodka Sauce

This recipe creates the best Homemade Vodka Sauce. It is so easy to make and goes wonderfully on many types of your favorite pasta. Top with torn basil leaves and parmesan cheese for a quick family favorite meal.

Two bowls of Vodka Sauce Pasta.

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Up close photo of the Best Vodka Sauce Recipe on top of noodles with basil leaves.

This summer both my husband and I have had a very strong focus on our health.

He is doing a lot of walking and I am trying to get in 5 miles on the elliptical, 5 days a week. 

We also have been focus on keeping our carbohydrate levels lower with each meal.

There is also what feels like a bazillion other things we are focusing to be healthy, but that is for another day and time.

But you know what felt like a total decadently wonderfully amazing treat after doing low carb?

Eating this Homemade Vodka Sauce on pasta.

It is such an easy dish to whip together and it is  just soul satisfying with its slightly sweet, savory, creamy and subtle peppery flavors.

This recipe is perfect for date night or when you need to make a good dinner quickly.

Overhead photo of Easy Vodka Sauce in a white bowl with noodles.


What Is Vodka Sauce?

Vodka Sauce is an Italian-American tomato based sauce that has many of the traditional Italian ingredients that marinara does but with red chili pepper flakes, vodka and cream. Traditionally penne noodles are used most often with Vodka Sauce. However, there is no rule saying you can’t use your favorite pasta for this recipe. 

How To Make Homemade Vodka Sauce

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling salt heavily and cook pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, Over medium heat sauté diced onion and roughly chopped garlic in olive oil until sweating and just starting to become clear. 
  3. Sprinkle in red chili pepper flakes and tomato paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until tomato paste just starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add in vodka and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in San Marazano tomatoes, using your spatula to break apart tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-7 minutes. 
  6. Remove 1/4 cup of pasta water and add to half and half to temper cream. Gently stir into Vodka Sauce and bring back to a simmer for about 5 minutes. 
  7. Add in freshly grated parmesan and torn basil leaves. Gently stir in cooked pasta. 

Why Temper the Half and Half?

The act of tempering a cream is taking it from a cold state to a warmer state by slowly mixing in a small amount of hot liquid. By doing this it prevents the cold half and half from curdling when it hits the hot Vodka Sauce. Non curdled Vodka Sauce is much more appealing. 

Tools Needed For Vodka Sauce Pasta 

Listed below are the tools that help in making this Homemade Vodka Sauce.

Vodka Sauce With Meat

Vodka Sauce with Shrimp

To make Vodka Sauce with Shrimp, peel, devein and clean 1 lb. of raw shrimp. Preheat an enameled dutch oven or large sauce pan over medium/low heat. Add an additional 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of chili pepper flakes and 2 large diced garlic cloves to oil. Cook until garlic begins to bubble and oil becomes fragrant. Add shrimp and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side or until shrimp turns pink and opaque. 

Once shrimps are cooked, remove from pan and bring heat up to medium. Continue on with recipe as written below. Once Vodka Sauce is done and the cream and basil is added, gently stir in cooked shrimp. 

Vodka Sauce with Pancetta 

Add diced pancetta to a sauce pan and cook over medium/high heat until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and lower heat to medium. Continue on with recipe as written below. Add in browned pancetta before stirring in cream and basil. 

Vodka Sauce with Italian Sausage 

In a separate frying pan, cook Italian Sausage over medium/high heat until browned and crumbled. Once cooked through, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess fat. Continue on with recipe as written below and add cooked Italian sausage before stirring in half and half. 

Types Of Pasta For Homemade Vodka Sauce

When making this dish, what is most important is to choose a pasta shape that you love. Here are some shapes that I think work well.

  • Gnocchi
  • Penne
  • Tagliatelle
  • Rigatoni
  • Pappardelle
  • Vermicelli
  • Fusilli 
  • Farfalle
  • Capellini 
  • Gemelli 

More Delicious Italian Recipes

Penne Pomodoro with Burrata

Gnocchi Asparagus and Mushroom Skillet

Toasted Walnut Pesto

Tomato Caper Pasta

Italian Beef Stew

Italian Tomato and Eggs

Homemade Italian Sausage  

More Easy Dinner Recipes 

Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Potato Bake

Mom’s Classic Meatloaf

Country Style Spare Ribs an Sauerkraut

Zesty Chicken Pasta Salad 


Two big white bowls of Homemade Vodka Sauce and noodles.

Two bowls of Vodka Sauce Pasta.

Homemade Vodka Sauce

This Homemade Vodka Sauce with your favorite pasta is a great date night meal or easy weeknight dinner. Full of the the rich flavors of San Marazano tomatoes along with vodka and cream makes this an irresistible dish.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian/American
Keyword: Homemade Vodka Sauce, Vodka Sauce, Vodka Sauce Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 498kcal
Author: Heather


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lg brown onion *diced, about 2 cups
  • 6 cloves garlic *roughly diced, about 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 1- 28oz can San Marazano tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese *plus extra for garnish
  • 15 basil leaves *torn and added at the end
  • 1 lb pasta *of choice


For the Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Once boiling heavily salt water to taste like the ocean. Cook pasta to al dente following the directions on the package.

For the Sauce

  • Over medium heat sauté onion and garlic until sweating and just starting to become clear, about 5-7 mins.
  • Add in chili pepper flakes and tomato paste, stirring consistently. Cook until tomato paste just starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 2-3 mins.
  • Add in vodka and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until most of vodka has cooked off.
  • Add canned tomatoes, using a spatula to break them apart. Bring to a simmer over med heat and then cook for about 5-7 mins.
  • Remove a 1/4 cup of salted pasta water and temper half and half with pasta water. Gently stir in half and half to vodka sauce. Bring to a simmer still over medium heat and cook for 5 mins.
  • Stir in parmesan and torn basil leaves.
  • Add pasta to sauce and gently stir. Garnish with additional parmesan.


*Please use as many organic ingredients as possible.
**Inspired by Bon Appétit
Recipe Notes
  • To make heavily salted water for the pasta use an 8 quart stockpot filled 3/4's of the way full. Once the water is boiling add approximately 1/2 cup sea salt. This one step shocks everyone but it is truly how chefs do it. 
  • Since stovetops vary in the intensity of heat they produce, timing may vary. 
  • For an extra rich Vodka Sauce use heavy cream. 


Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 372mg | Potassium: 316mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 412IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 255mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @thefedupfoodie or tag #thefedupfoodie!


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