How To Make Ala Vodka Sauce

How To Make Ala Vodka Sauce

As a vodka enthusiast, the world of mixology can be an irresistible journey, and what better way to broaden your vodka horizons than by going beyond cocktails and exploring the realm of culinary creations? Enter the delicious Ala Vodka Sauce. This rich, tangy, and creamy tomato-based sauce is a popular addition to pasta dishes and delivers a delightful symphony of flavors that is perfect for impressing your family, friends or that special someone. If you're ready to flex your culinary prowess and embark on a gastronomic adventure, read on for a detailed guide on how to make Ala Vodka Sauce, courtesy of Vodka Doctors.

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What is Ala Vodka Sauce?

Ala Vodka Sauce, also known as Penne alla Vodka, is a decadent pasta dish that originated in Italy in the 1980s. It is made from a velvety blend of tomatoes, onions, garlic, vodka, cream, and a hint of chili, providing a sophisticated balance of flavors that will leave you craving more.

Why Vodka?

You may be wondering what purpose vodka serves in a pasta sauce. Vodka adds depth to the dish and helps develop a rich, complex taste that you cannot achieve with just tomatoes and cream alone. In addition, vodka effectively dissolves the fat-soluble compounds in the sauce, resulting in an incredibly smooth and luscious texture with each bite.


Here is a list of ingredients you'll need to create this delectable vodka sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley or basil, for garnish


Follow these simple steps to make a mouthwatering Ala Vodka Sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until softened and slightly golden. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
  3. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. At this point, carefully pour in the vodka and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes until reduced by half.
  5. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the cream does not burn or curdle.
  7. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese until fully melted and incorporated. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and optional red pepper flakes to taste.
  8. Serve the Ala Vodka Sauce over cooked penne or your favorite pasta shape, garnished with chopped fresh parsley or basil for that perfect finishing touch.

How To Make Ala Vodka Sauce Example:

Ala Vodka Sauce served over penne pasta with fresh basil garnish

A scrumptious bowl of Ala Vodka Sauce served over penne, garnished with fresh basil.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ala Vodka Sauce?

Ala Vodka Sauce is a creamy tomato-based sauce that is enhanced with vodka, heavy cream, and typically some cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino. It's popular as a pasta sauce, known for its rich texture and slight tanginess and kick from the vodka which is mostly cooked off during preparation.

What type of pasta works best with Ala Vodka Sauce?

This sauce is versatile and can be used with a variety of pasta shapes. It clings well to tubular pastas like penne or rigatoni, but it also works great with spaghetti or fettuccine.

Can I make Ala Vodka Sauce without vodka?

Yes, you can. The vodka does help to balance the flavors and intensify the aroma of the tomatoes, but you can omit it if you prefer a non-alcoholic version of the sauce.

Is there a non-dairy alternative to heavy cream for this sauce?

For a non-dairy version, you can use full-fat coconut milk or cashew cream as a substitute for heavy cream. Keep in mind that this may alter the flavor slightly.

Can I use canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones?

Absolutely. Canned tomatoes, especially high-quality San Marzano tomatoes, are an excellent choice for making vodka sauce. They provide a consistent and rich tomato base.

How do I store leftover Ala Vodka Sauce?

Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze it in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. Just make sure to let it cool to room temperature before storing it.

What is the role of vodka in Ala Vodka Sauce?

Vodka helps to emulsify the sauce, bringing oil and water elements together for a smoother consistency. It also brings out certain flavors from the tomatoes that are alcohol-soluble.

Is it safe for kids to eat pasta with Ala Vodka Sauce?

Generally, the alcohol from the vodka cooks off during the preparation, leaving the sauce with a negligible amount of alcohol. However, it's a personal choice for parents to serve it to children.

Can I add meat to Ala Vodka Sauce?

Yes, you can add proteins like chicken or pancetta to make the sauce more substantial. Cook the meat separately and add it to the sauce as it simmers.

How spicy should Ala Vodka Sauce be?

The level of spiciness can be adjusted to taste. Typically, a pinch of red pepper flakes is added, but you can increase or decrease the amount based on your preference.

Are there any gluten-free options for Ala Vodka Sauce?

Yes, the sauce itself is naturally gluten-free. Pair it with your favorite gluten-free pasta for a complete gluten-free dish.

How do I thicken my Ala Vodka Sauce if it's too runny?

If the sauce is too thin, let it simmer for a little longer to reduce and thicken. You can also add a bit of tomato paste to help thicken it up.

Can I use fresh herbs in my Ala Vodka Sauce?

Certainly! Fresh basil, oregano, or parsley can enhance the flavor profile of the sauce. Add them towards the end of cooking to preserve their fresh flavor and aroma.

What cheeses work well with Ala Vodka Sauce?

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese melt beautifully into the sauce. You can also top your pasta with mozzarella for a melty finishing touch.

How long does it take to cook Ala Vodka Sauce?

The process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how long you let the sauce simmer to develop the flavors. Generally, a minimum of 20 minutes is recommended.

Can I make Ala Vodka Sauce ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare it in advance. It often tastes better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld together. Just reheat it gently on the stovetop before serving.

What is the best way to reheat Ala Vodka Sauce?

Gently reheat it on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally until it's warmed through. You may add a splash of water or broth if the sauce has thickened too much in the fridge.

How can I make a lighter version of Ala Vodka Sauce?

To make a lighter version, you can use lighter cooking cream or half-and-half instead of heavy cream. Some even use Greek yogurt as a substitute. Adjust the amount of cheese as well to lower the calories.

What can I serve with pasta and Ala Vodka Sauce?

A side salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables complement the rich taste of the pasta and sauce. For a heartier meal, you can also serve it with a protein like chicken or fish.

What should I do if my sauce is too acidic?

If the sauce is too acidic, you can add a pinch of sugar to balance it out. Another option is to add more cream, which can also mellow out the acidity.

Can I freeze Ala Vodka Sauce?

Yes, this sauce freezes well. Pour it into a freezer-safe container, allowing a little space for expansion, and it can be stored for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating and using.

Are there any common variations of Ala Vodka Sauce?

You might find variations that include different herbs, spices, or additional flavor enhancers like sun-dried tomatoes or artichokes. Some recipes also use white wine in addition to, or instead of, vodka.

What type of vodka should I use for Ala Vodka Sauce?

A standard, unflavored vodka works best for this sauce. The quality of vodka doesn't need to be high-end since it's being cooked, but do avoid the cheapest options as they can impart a harsh taste.

We hope this guide has inspired and equipped you with the knowledge to create your own mouthwatering Ala Vodka Sauce. Next time you're hosting a dinner party or simply craving some rich and satisfying comfort food, remember this scrumptious recipe and treat yourself to a culinary masterpiece. Don't forget to explore the wealth of other vodka-infused guides and articles available on Vodka Doctors, and please share this post to help spread the love for this delectable sauce. Cheers to your next vodka-infused culinary endeavor!

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Ferdynand Scheuerman

Ferdynand is Vodka importer, exporter and specialist with over 30 years of experience in the Vodka industry. He knows the subtle in's & out's of Vodka. Spending most of his time discovering new brands, new blends and new cocktails.

About Ferdynand Scheuerman

Ferdynand is Vodka importer, exporter and specialist with over 30 years of experience in the Vodka industry. He knows the subtle in's & out's of Vodka. Spending most of his time discovering new brands, new blends and new cocktails.

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