Vodka sauce is my favorite pasta sauce. I have a recipe for how to make traditional vodka sauce, but this short-cut creamy vodka sauce is a nice alternative for when you’re a little bit short on time. If you don’t want to use vodka, you can also turn this into a creamy marinara sauce with a simple substitution of stock or water for the vodka.
It’s really versatile–you can even use it as a pizza sauce like I did in my Grandma Pizza recipe.
I originally developed this recipe for Barilla in 2016. Thanks, Barilla, for partnering with me!
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Dinner In a Snap with Jarred Pasta Sauce
You are less than thirty minutes away from dinner!
One of my favorite quick meals is cooking up some pasta and finishing it in some great sauce, homemade or store bought.
Even if you aren’t up for making a quick homemade sauce for a weeknight dinner, there are some excellent jarred pasta sauces out in the world, such as this All Natural Marinara from Barilla.
First, Start with Jarred Marinara
You can actually buy jarred vodka sauce, but it’s so easy to turn a jarred or homemade marinara into vodka sauce, I usually just do it myself. Here’s how it works:
- Heat oil and pepper flake.
- Add marinara and heat.
- Add vodka and reduce a few minutes.
- Stir in cream cheese and Pecorino Romano.
See? Easy!Easy Creamy Vodka Sauce | Dinner will be ready in 20 minutes. Honest!
If You Prefer a Traditional Sauce
If you’re interested in a more old-school “pink sauce’ you might find at your favorite Italian trattoria, please give my “How to Make Vodka Sauce” post a look.
What Makes This Sauce Creamy?
Most vodka sauce is made with heavy cream.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have heavy cream on hand. But what I do almost always have on hand is cream cheese, and that’s the secret ingredient in my easy vodka sauce, although I guess it isn’t a secret anymore!
So, while it may not be strictly (or even a little bit) traditional, you can absolutely make vodka sauce with cream cheese.
What If I Don’t Drink? What Can I Substitute for the Vodka?
No worries if you don’t have vodka in the house. You can still make a very flavorful sauce by just adding a bit of stock in place of the vodka.
It won’t be exactly the same as if you used vodka, but it will still be creamy and delicious!
Other Easy Dinner Recipes To Try
Want some more easy dinner ideas? Try one of these comforting recipes. All can be ready in under 30 minutes, although you will want to chill the macaroni salad:
Starting with jarred marinara sauce gives you a bit of a head start on dinner, and you can have this easy pasta dish on the table in about 30 minutes!If this recipe sounds good to you, please rate it and/or leave a comment. I love hearing from readers! If you make it, and I really hope you do, please share a photo with me either on Instagram, tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe or in the Pastry Chef Online Facebook group. I can’t wait to see your version!
For the Creamy Vodka Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake, , to taste
- 1 24 oz jar marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup vodka, (sub water or stock if you don't want to use alcohol)
- 4 oz cream cheese, (1/2 block)
- 2 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, (if needed for sweetness)
To Finish and Serve
- 1 pound your favorite hearty pasta shape such as penne
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil until it shimmers.
- Add the pepper flake and swirl for a few seconds to flavor the oil.
- Pour in the jar of your favorite marinara sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer and add the vodka, water or stock.
- Simmer and stir for about 5 minutes just to reduce the sauce a bit.
- Stir in the cream cheese until melted, and then stir in the grated Pecorino Romano.
- Taste, and if needed, add the balsamic for a bit of brightness. I quite liked it in mine.
To Finish and Serve
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Boil only 7 minutes rather than 9, then drain it, reserving 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
- Add the pasta and water to the creamy marinara sauce and stir well over high heat until the pasta is done and the sauce beautifully coats every piece of penne.
- Serve with extra grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
If you make your sauce while your pasta water is coming to a boil and while your pasta is cooking, I promise you dinner can be on the table in about 20 minutes!
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- Vera Pasta Traditional Penne Pasta - Gourmet Italian Pasta for Authentic Taste & Texture - Artisan, Fresh Pasta Made in the USA - All Natural, High-Protein Penne Pasta - 2 Pounds
- Cooks Standard 3-Quart Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Saucepan with Lid
- Zassenhaus Speyer 5.1-Inch Dark Stained Beech Pepper Mill
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1/6
Amount Per Serving Calories 399Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 33mgSodium 832mgCarbohydrates 43gFiber 4gSugar 9gProtein 13g
And there it is, friends. Starting with jarred pasta sauce is a great shortcut to restaurant-style flavor with minimal effort.
Thank you so much for spending some time with me and with Barilla®.
Take care, and have a lovely day.