I am so glad you’re here, because I’m going to show you how to make vodka sauce, my all-time favorite pasta sauce, with any marinara sauce (but I’m also giving you the recipe for one of my favorite marinara sauces, so yay!)
Use this vodka sauce to make a classic penne alla vodka, use it as a pizza sauce like I do with my Grandma Pizza, or use it as a sauce for lasagna. It is so good!
For ease of browsing, here are all of my pasta recipes. Thanks for stopping by!
Photos Updated, 3/2019
Watch my restaurant-style vodka sauce web story here.
First things first
The most important step in making this classic sauce is to start with a good marinara sauce.
I started with Fabio Viviani’s recipe, and you can watch him make make his tomato sauce here.
You can also use your favorite marinara recipe or use a good quality jarred marinara.
I did a bit of research on this classic sauce (thanks, Giada), and it contains these components:
- Marinara Sauce
- Heavy Cream
- Parmesan cheese
Remember, you can make any marinara sauce you like. Or you can use your favorite jarred sauce.
My favorite jarred marinara is Rao’s. Give it a try. It tastes very fresh with a minimal ingredient list.
And now, on to the recipe and technique for making restaurant-style pasta sauce.
Making vodka sauce from marinara sauce
The basic ratios for making this classic are easy to remember:
- 8 parts marinara
- 2 parts vodka
- 1 part cream
- 1/2 part Parmesan
To make a huge amount, the measurements would look like this:
- 8 cups marinara
- 2 cups vodka
- 1 cup cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
My recipe makes about 1/4 of that amount, and you’ll see the ratios hold true.
In the collage below, you can see the proportions holding true. I have 2 cups of marinara, so it will need 1/2 cup vodka.
Cook the two together and reduce until you have the original volume (2 cups).
Then, you’ll add 1/4 cup of cream, puree, and last, add 2 Tablespoons of freshly microplaned Parmesan cheese.
To marry the sauce to the pasta, you’ll need 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, shown in the last collage image.
Step by step instructions
- Cook marinara and vodka together until the volume is the same as the original amount of marinara (See image below)
- Add cream and pepper flakes. Puree with an immersion blender.
- Stir in Parmesan.
- Adjust seasonings if necessary.
How Do I Mix the Sauce Into My Pasta?
There is nothing sadder than naked pasta with sauce poured on top.
What you need to do is make sure that every noodle is coated with rich, creamy sauce. In order to do that, you have to know how to marry the sauce to the pasta.
It’s not hard to do, and it only takes an extra couple of minutes of cooking. The effort is more than worth it. After all, I didn’t show you how to make this restaurant classic only to have it poured haphazardly onto naked pasta.
To enjoy this the way they make it in restaurants, marry the sauce and pasta together.
In Short: To the pot of sauce:
- add some of your starchy pasta cooking water along with a bit of fat (oil, cream, or butter) to the cooked and drained pasta.
- Boil madly, stirring, to reduce the liquid.
- The starch lends a beautiful, creamy mouthfeel to your sauce.
What Pasta Pairs Best with Vodka Sauce?
The classic shape is penne, hence “penne alla vodka.” Penne is Italian for pen, and these short shapes sort of look like the nibs of fountain pens.
If you get the kind with ridges, which I prefer since the ridges hold onto more sauce, that’s called penne rigate, which literally means “striped penne.”
For every day, I turn to DeCecco most often. But for fancy pasta, here’s my pick:
For everyday cooking, I don't go much beyond brands available in my local grocery store, but sometimes I want fancy pasta. Rummo is an excellent pasta that is imported from Italy, from the Rummo family's pasta company in Benevento. They've been around since 1846. I'd say they know what they are doing!
It’s for more than just pasta
Looking for another way to enjoy your luscious velvety sauce?
And if you’re interested in an easy, shortcut version, try my Easy Creamy Vodka Sauce recipe!
Other classic pasta sauce recipes
Once you master this, here are some other classic pasta sauce recipes you will want to have in your back pocket:
- Primavera Sauce (Kid-Friendly with loads of vegetables)
- Try this creamy pasta sauce. It’s not necessarily an authentic Italian sauce, but it’s rich and creamy and tastes like garlic and Asiago cheese. It’s pretty excellent.
- Easy Puttanesca Sauce (A bold sauce with the huge flavors of anchovy, capers, olive, and pepper flake)
- Traditional Bolognese Sauce (Meaty comforting goodness)
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Check out my how to make vodka sauce pin on Pinterest as well. Other folks have made it and have left photos!
Thanks, and enjoy!
- 2 cups your favorite marinara sauce (See Notes for Fabio's Recipe)
- 1/2 cup vodka, (it does not need to be top shelf, or even middle shelf)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- a few hot pepper flakes, (optional but lovely)
- salt and pepper, to taste (only if necessary. Taste after you add the cheese and go from there.)
- Bring marinara and vodka to a boil. Simmer and reduce until it is at the original volume of the marinara. So, starting with 2 cups of marinara and adding 1/2 cup of vodka, you'll simmer until your total volume is back to 2 cups.
- Add the cream and pepper flake and puree until smooth. (I used an immersion blender, but you can certainly use a blender-blender).
- Stir in the Parmesan.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- To serve with penne or Whatever, cook the pasta for 2 fewer minutes than package directions. Drain, reserving a bit of pasta cooking water.
- Dump in enough vodka sauce to coat all the pasta along with about 1/4 cup of the cooking water. You don't want the pasta swimming in sauce, so use your own judgement. This is pretty rich stuff. Each noodle should have a thin, sexy coating of sauce once you're done cooking.
- Stir over high heat for two minutes. Plate and serve.
To Make Fabio Viviani's Marinara Sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 28 oz can excellent quality whole tomatoes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Italian seasoning to taste (optional)
- an additional Tablespoon or so of olive oil
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil.
- Toast the garlic in the oil until it is "cappuccino brown."
- Immediately add the canned tomatoes and all the juice along with a heavy pinch of salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and some Italian seasoning (if using).
- Cook over medium heat, smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, until the mixture has reduced by quite a bit and the tomatoes are caramelizing (the color will be a richer, darker red). This will take about 15 minutes or so.
- Add the additional olive oil and cook over high heat until the oil that separates out from the sauce is red.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
You can use this sauce as Viviani suggests over toast or marry it to your favorite pasta. Or puree the sauce and use to make vodka sauce!
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Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving Calories 210Total Fat 6.9gSaturated Fat 3.1gCholesterol 15mgSodium 687mgCarbohydrates 17.5gFiber 3.3gSugar 11.1gProtein 3.5g
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Enjoy the sauce, and spread the love by teaching someone else how to make it!
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