Vodka Sauce

We ate tomato-based dishes every night last week: pizza, chana masala and this vodka sauce with pasta. I have yet to tire of tomatoes though. I eat lots of them while they’re in season and roast and freeze a bunch to get through most of the winter. For me, part of the joy of eating seasonally stems from the anticipation for what comes next (right now, think pumpkin pie soon). If we could have delicious local fresh tomatoes year-round (i.e., not imported and gassed), would we appreciate them as much as we do every summer?

frozen tomatoes
Roasted tomatoes, frozen in glass jars

Almost every weekend for the past several weeks, I’ve bought lots of tomatoes at the farmer’s market to roast when I get them home. When I want to make this or another tomato-based recipe, I just grab the prepped tomatoes from the refrigerator. The roasted tomatoes are my version of store-bought canned—but taste so much better. Compare a tomato you buy in January to one you picked off the vine in August. That’s how much better than canned these tomatoes taste. (Here’s my post on roasting tomatoes.)

For this post, I did get out my food mill to remove the tomato skins. I mentioned in my post for chana masala that I didn’t want to be bothered with this step but for a silky smooth sauce like this vodka sauce, it’s worth the small effort cranking a food mill requires. Mine cleans up very easily too.

food mill in action
Action shot of food mill
tomatoes onions
Roasted tomatoes processed through a food mill

If you don’t own a food mill and want to rid your tomatoes of their skins, you can try mushing roasted tomatoes through a medium-fine sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. You can also score, blanch and peel tomatoes but I use such small tomatoes (for their intense flavor), I would be at that all day long. Larger tomatoes would take much less time though.

Serve this sauce with very hot pasta. I can buy pasta in bulk where I live. My daughter MK also makes it occasionally. She returns to university in the Olde Country Friday though, so I’ll have to start making it myself. Sourdough pasta has sat on my to-make list for a couple of years now. One of these days I’ll get to it…

MK’s homemade pasta

A splash of alcohol makes everything taste better

I love cooking with alcohol. A bit of wine or in this case, vodka, makes food so rich and tasty. I had always heard that alcohol burns off when cooking with it, but when I did a bit of research just now on the topic, I discovered that some alcohol does remain. If you add it early, the food contains less. Even I, total lightweight, cannot detect any alcohol in this dish but I wouldn’t feed this recipe to someone one the wagon.

I based this on the Joy of Cooking recipe “Penne with Vodka.”


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes, run through a food mill
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • A few tablespoons chopped fresh basil if desired


1. Sauté onions over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft.

2. Add garlic and sauté for a minute.

3. Add tomatoes, vodka and spices, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Some of the alcohol will burn off.

4. Stir in heavy cream and heat through.

5. Season with salt, pepper and basil if using.

6. Toss with hot pasta.

vodka sauce
Vodka sauce
vodka sauce pasta
Vodka sauce with pasta

11 Replies to “Vodka Sauce”

  1. Perfect timing! We have so many tomatoes and I have run out of ideas–thanks for sharing!!!

    1. It’s that time of year Lori 🙂 This sauce is SO good. My daughter was the first to make this several years ago and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. Enjoy!

      1. PS, going to tweet you some questions about pickling. I’m making at least as many pickles as sauces right now. Stay tuned!

      2. Great minds, Lori. I have tomatoes and pickles everywhere right now 😉 I’ll check Twitter later today.

      3. Tomorrow–I won’t get to it until then!

  2. Could i just use my blender and not run it thorough a food mill. I don’t mind skin bits in my sauce.

    1. I say if you like it, then that’s the recipe 😉 I think that would work and am pretty sure I have blended pizza sauce before that I made with fresh tomatoes.

  3. Tomatoes, cream, and vodka – sounds like a winning combo 🙂 And never heard of sourdough pasta! You always give me new things to think about 🙂

    1. It’s hard to go wrong with that combo 😉 One day I’ll actually make the pasta!

      1. Haha! One step at a time 😆

  4. So pleased to have found your blog – my peeps hang out here obviously! I am curious about freezing in glass jars as I’ve had several disasters (cracked jars, thrown out food for fear of glass shards in the food). Do you do something special to prevent cracking the jars?

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