Olivia's Vodka Pasta Sauce (penne alla vodka)

A pan of vodka pasta sauce with three dollops of ricotta cheese and basil leaves sprinkled on the sauce. An orange and white striped napkin and basil leaves sit next to the pan.

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5 from 2 reviews

This recipe elevates tomato pasta sauce to new culinary heights. With heavy cream, crushed tomatoes, and of course vodka, Olivia's Vodka Sauce is so ridiculously good, you could drink it from a cup.


  • 1 1/2 large Sweet Onions, chopped
  • 1 Bulb Garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Vodka (I like Tito's)
  • 2 - 28 ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes (Tuttorosso brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • A handful of Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 3 tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar or Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 4 ounces Fresh Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
  • Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, for garnishment (optional)
  • Julienne Basil Leaves, for garnishment (optional)
  • Cooked Penne Pasta to al dente


  • Heat a heavy bottom pan (Dutch Oven works great) over medium to medium-high heat. When heated add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Add 1 1/2 large chopped sweet onion. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Sauté for 6-8 minutes or until onions are tender but not browned. Stir frequently as to not burn.
  • Add 1 garlic bulb (chopped) to the onions and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add 1 cup of vodka. Using a spatula, loosen any particles on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add 2 -28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (Tuturosso brand).
  • Add a small amount of water (maybe 1/4 of a cup) to each tomato can, swirl to get all the tomatoes out, and pour it into the tomato sauce. You may need to add more water as it cooks so that it's not too thick.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream and stir.
  • Add 4 ounces grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves, 3 tablespoons of garlic powder, 3 tablespoons of onion powder, 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a low boil.
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer and cool for at least 2 hours. Stirring occasionally as to not burn the sauce.
  • Just prior to serving, cook penne pasta according to package directions.
  • Serve the vodka sauce over the penne noodles. Add a dollop of whole milk ricotta cheese. And garnish with julienne basil leaves.
  • ENJOY!


  • The key to sautéing onions is the heat. You don't want to cook them too high to where they burn or become charred.  Somewhere between medium and medium-high is what you're looking for.
  • There's no need to go out and buy a super expensive vodka, what you have in your cabinet and what you enjoy drinking will definitely suffice.
  • While the fresh onions and garlic provide body and texture, the powders are a pure flavor bomb because of how concentrated they are. Both fresh and powder together give it its full richness.
  • Your spice rack should contain brands that are fresher and more flavorful than the cheap brands you spend a dollar or two on. You really do get what you pay for.
  • Dried herbs usually will not last longer than a year. If they've lost all of their green color, it's probably time to buy another bottle. Old herbs tend to taste dusty.
  • The amount of heat in this recipe is more moderate but you can definitely taste the warmth. What I would suggest, is to start with one teaspoon or less of red pepper flakes and ratchet it up from there according to your preference.
  • When choosing parmesan cheese, don't go for the green can on the grocery shelf. Also, freshly grated just before you add it to the sauce is so much better than purchasing a pre-packaged grated one.


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