How to Make Vodka Sauce

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Pasta in vodka sauce is not a traditional Italian dish -- vodka, after all, is not a typical Italian spirit -- but the dish was a fixture on Italian-inspired menus in the 1970s and 1980s. The sauce is a simple combination of tomatoes, cream, vodka and hot pepper. The vodka, though mostly flavorless itself, plays an important role in enhancing the aroma of the tomatoes.

How to Make Vodka Sauce
(Alfredo Tisi/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Dried short, tubular pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
  • Chopped garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Canned tomato puree
  • Vodka
  • Heavy cream
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Large pasta pot
  • Water
  • Large saucepan
Step 1

Place a large pasta pot filled with water on to boil. Add salt to the water to taste. When it is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, or yielding to the teeth but still firm.

Alfredo Tisi/Demand Media
Step 2

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. When it's hot, add a handful of chopped garlic and saute for just a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Add a pinch or two of crushed red peppers and saute for a few seconds more.

Alfredo Tisi/Demand Media
Step 3

Add a can of tomato puree and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer until the mixture thickens slightly. Add about two shot glasses of vodka, stir and simmer for a few minutes more. Add a roughly equal amount of cream, stir and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed with salt.

Alfredo Tisi/Demand Media
Step 4

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix, keeping the heat on low until everything is heated through. Serve the pasta garnished with grated Parmesan.

Alfredo Tisi/Demand Media

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