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Easy Vodka Sauce

Pancetta, parmesan, vodka and heavy cream make our easy vodka sauce more than a little better than regular old tomato sauce.


a bowl of pasta tossed with easy vodka sauce sprinkled with red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese and basil.

Chianti in Your Glass, Vodka in the Sauce.

Vodka sauce. You’ve probably heard of it, maybe you’ve ordered it in a restaurant, or even bought it in a jar to eat at home. But here’s the thing—you haven’t really had vodka sauce until you’ve made it yourself at home. Nothing compares to the lusciously creamy pink sauce that this vodka sauce recipe yields. Garlic, pancetta, and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are a flavor-giving triple-threat that make this classic Italian American pasta sauce recipe transcendently good.

ingredients laid out for vodka sauce parmesan cheese, pancetta, garlic, onion, tomatoes
diced pancetta fried in a pot
homemade vodka sauce being made in a soup pot
Easy Vodka Sauce recipe being made in a soup pot

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What is Vodka Sauce?

An American original—nope, it’s not authentically Italian in the slightest!—the origins of penne alla vodka are a bit murky. But, we know for sure that it burst onto the American food scene sometime in the late 1960s or early ‘70s. At the time, vodka was soaring in popularity, and some genius chef—there’s no agreement about who it was—realized that vodka’s boozy sharpness served as a perfect foil for the sweetness of cooked tomatoes and heft of heavy cream and thus a cozy, comforting, perfectly-balanced Italian-American recipe was born. We think of vodka sauce as fresh tomato sauce’s wintery cousin—a little heavier, and more suited for the cold weather months, when we need a little edible comfort in our bowls. And, considering this recent and rather opaque history, we feel extra confident making the claim that our recipe is a 100% authentic vodka sauce recipe!

cream and parmesan cheese added to homemade vodka sauce recipe
authentic vodka sauce recipe

Let’s Talk Pasta!

You can serve this easy vodka sauce with any pasta you love, but we especially like it with the smaller shapes. Penne alla vodka is classic, but we also love it with:

  • Rigatoni! Look for the kind with ridges—they help the sauce to stick to the pasta.
  • Fusilli! These twisty little corkscrews are our kids’ favorite, and we think they’re pretty fun, too.
  • Farfalle! AKA bowtie pasta! Pasta sauce clings well to this fun-to-eat pasta shape, too.
homemade vodka sauce recipe with pancetta, whole tomatoes, cream, and onion

How to Make Vodka Sauce

Homemade vodka sauce just cannot be beat. It’s fast, and such a hit every time. If you’re worried about the vodka in the sauce, don’t be! With just 1/2 a cup of vodka in the sauce and a 30-minute simmer time, the alcohol will be completely cooked out of the sauce before serving. Here’s how to make our easy vodka sauce:

  1. Brown the onions and pancetta (or bacon, in a pinch!). When the pancetta is crispy, add a little garlic. OK, actually, we want you to add a lot of garlic.
  2. Booze time! Pour in the vodka and tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you go. You’ve got open vodka now, so you might as well make a martini. Olive or twist? Well, that’s up to you. Better crank that Rat Pack playlist—you know, for inspiration.
  3. Simmer! Now that you’ve got the sauce going and that martini stirred, go take a load off. You’ve got 30 minutes to chill.
  4. Finish the sauce with a bunch of parm, heavy cream, and salt to taste. Then, mangia!
pasta added to easy homemade vodka sauce recipe in a soup pot

Pasta Night!

In our house, pasta night comes more than once a week. We especially love these classic Italian-American pasta recipes—crowd pleasers, one and all:

Tools You’ll Need:

a bowl of pasta tossed with easy vodka sauce sprinkled with red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese and basil.

Mambo Italiano

We hope this easy vodka sauce recipe puts a spring in your step and is a hit in your home! If you make it, let us know! Snap a photo, and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see it and share. Happy eating!

Easy Vodka Sauce

  • Serves: 12
  • Prep Time:  10 min
  • Cook Time:  40 min
  • Calories: 242


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes (crushed with hands)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3/4 lb cooked pasta for serving
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
  • extra parmesan cheese for serving, optional
  • basil, thinly sliced, optional


  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and pancetta and cook over medium heat until onions have softened and pancetta is crispy, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add in garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add the vodka and the tomatoes (crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands as you add them) to the pot. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes to burn off the alcohol and cook down the tomatoes.
  4. Add the salt, heavy cream and the parmesan. Simmer another 5 minutes until creamy.
  5. Serve over ¾ lbs of your favorite cooked pasta with red pepper flakes, extra parmesan cheese and basil.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories242
  • Protein10 g
  • Carbohydrates25 g
  • Total Fat12 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol11 mg
  • sodium277 mg
  • Total Sugars2 g

Easy Vodka Sauce

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Beatrice Taylor

    Can you use half’s and half

    We haven't tried it but it should be ok!

  • Cathy

    This was delicious! I didn’t include the pancetta (I didn’t have any) but it was awesome without it. I added some sautéed chicken for a protein. Will absolutely make this again. Thank you!

    Thanks Cathy, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Michelle Centonze

    I have made this vodka sauce before and it was a huge hit. Can I double the recipe to make more? Thanks!

    Thanks Michelle, so happy you love it! Yes, feel free to double!

  • Katie

    Made this for my Boyfriend and I on a little date night. I made it with a fried chicken and cheese topping and let me just tell you, per my boyfriend it was a "Wife Dish" lol! Thank you lol especially for the Martini Idea! ;D


  • Anjali

    Wow this was so good! I used turkey bacon, fire roasted crushed tomatoes, and extra garlic! Next time I'll use less cream though, I felt so full so fast but kept wanting to eat and couldn't so that was sad.

    This is wonderful news! We hope you make it again soon!