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Vodka Sauce Carbonara

Our best carbonara recipe meets a creamy tomato vodka sauce so you can have the best of all pasta worlds in one dish. Finish with a mountain of parmesan for maximum yum.

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Homemade vodka sauce carbonara on cooked pasta topped with parmesan, fresh parsley and red pepper flakes
Photography by Gayle McLeod

The Best Carbonara Recipe Also Has Vodka Sauce

You’ve had a traditional carbonara recipe, that classic Roman dish with pancetta, eggs, cheese, and pepper. And you’ve most likely enjoyed an authentic vodka sauce recipe, or as Americans like to call it, “Pink Sauce,” because of the beautiful hue it turns when heavy cream hits rich tomato sauce. This vodka sauce carbonara recipe is the most delicious marriage of these two favorite Italian pasta dishes.

ingredients for vodka sauce carbonara in prep bowls: pasta, crushed tomatoes, garlic, pancetta, parmesan, cream and vodka
onion and pancetta being cooked in olive oil in a large sauce pan
onion, pancetta, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes salt and vodka being poured into a large sauce pan
onion, pancetta, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes salt and vodka being stirred in a large sauce pan

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We Answer Your Vodka Sauce Carbonara Questions

  • Does vodka sauce have vodka in it? We hope so. We mean, yes! It does contain vodka, which helps intensify the bright tomato flavors of this easy vodka sauce recipe.

  • What is in vodka sauce? Vodka sauce, like many popular dishes, has an unclear origin. Maybe Italian, maybe an Italian-American creation, or maybe even a creation of vodka companies to encourage their products to be imbibed. In any case, vodka sauce is a tasty combination of tomato sauce, vodka, and heavy cream.

  • What does carbonara mean? One piece of pasta folklore points to an origin story adapted from the word carbonaro, or coal-burner, connecting the dish with laborers who cooked their meals outdoors. Fundamentally, a pasta carbonara recipe calls for noodles tossed in a creamy sauce made from raw egg yolks with crispy cured pork, Pecorino Romano cheese, and fresh cracked pepper.

reserved pasta water being poured into a glass bowl with whisked eggs and parmesan cheese
eggs, parmesan cheese, and reserved pasta water being whisked together in a glass bowl
egg & parmesan mixture being poured into a large sauce pan with the other ingredients for vodka sauce carbonara
cooked pasta being stirred together with homemade vodka sauce carbonara in a sauce pan

How To Make Vodka Sauce Carbonara

  1. Cook the onion (‘til soft!) and pancetta (‘til crispy!) Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes more.

  2. Make the vodka pasta sauce: stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes (if you’re looking for a spicy vodka sauce), salt, and vodka. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Slowly stir in the heavy cream.

  3. Cook the pasta. We’ve got you covered with our tips for How To Salt Water for the perfect al dente pasta every time. Make sure to reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

  4. Make an easy carbonara recipe by beating the egg yolks until smooth. Add the Parmesan and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, whisking constantly.

  5. Very slowly add the egg mixture to the tomato sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until fully incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Stir pasta into sauce adding remaining pasta cooking water a little at a time as needed.

  7. Divide between bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan before serving. Top with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and fresh parsley for maximum classic Italian restaurant vibes.

vodka sauce carbonara on cooked pasta topped with parmesan, parsley & red pepper flakes surrounded by sliced crusty bread

What To Make With Vodka Sauce Carbonara

The answer to this question is Garlic Bread. Always garlic bread. But maybe you want to mix things up with a tasty Panzanella. We also suggest a crunchy Caesar Salad to start. If you’re feeding a crowd, and would like this to be a real feast Stuffed Mushrooms and Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip are some of our favorite apps. On the side of your vodka sauce carbonara you can serve a hot dish of Zucchini Bake or simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Tools You’ll Need

More Pasta Dishes To Fall In Love With

Whether it’s a one-pot pasta, or a more elaborate affair, here’s more of our favorite pasta dishes for your next noodle night!

vodka sauce carbonara on cooked pasta topped with parmesan, parsley & red pepper flakes next to bowl of extra toppings

Get Out Your Cheese Grater And Snap Some Photos

Did you make our homemade vodka sauce carbonara? Show us your sauce, and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to! Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Buon appetito!

Vodka Sauce Carbonara

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  30 min
  • Calories: 446

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup vodka
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ pound short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the onion and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and pancetta is crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

  2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes (if using), 1 teaspoon of the salt, and vodka. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Slowly stir in the heavy cream.

  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

  4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. Add the Parmesan and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, whisking constantly.

  5. Very slowly add the egg mixture to the tomato sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until fully incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Stir pasta into sauce adding remaining pasta cooking water a little at a time as needed.

  7. Divide between bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan before serving. Top with red pepper flakes and fresh parsley if using.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories446
  • Protein17 g
  • Carbohydrates31 g
  • Total Fat24 g
  • Dietary Fiber4 g
  • Cholesterol176 mg
  • sodium1435 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

Vodka Sauce Carbonara

Questions & Reviews

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  • Jessica

    This was amazing! 10/10 recommend! Y’all never disappoint!!

    Thanks Jessica, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Erin

    This was delicious. Even the teenagers devoured it. Why are your recipes so good? I’m not even a good cook and your recipes give the illusion I am! Lol

    We bet you're better than you think! But thank you, we are so glad you enjoy our recipes!

  • Casey

    Also saw this on your instagram and decided it was exactly the comfort food I wanted when Aunt Flo decided to rear her ugly head this afternoon. I saved time by using store-bought vodka sauce, and I added ground hot Italian sausage to add more protein. Super tasty and definitely hitting the spot right now. Thank you!

    Thanks Casey, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Jenn

    I saw this on your Instagram and had to try it and it was incredible!! Thanks for changing my life!

    Thanks Jenn, so glad you loved it!