I’ll be honest, this is one of those things I wish I tried to make earlier. Because it was SO MUCH EASIER than I thought!
Ugh, regrets. All those days when I ordered in penne alla vodka when I could have just made it myself.
Just kidding, I don’t really regret those days.
Still, for whatever reason I was always scared of vodka sauce (not like, literally, just from a cooking POV). I thought it would be too complicated or too many steps, and really, it wasn’t bad at all. The one step that I highly recommend taking your time with is cooking down those onions. You want them super soft and translucent, but not caramelized, and that takes a solid 15-20 mins.
The other part that’s necessary? Cooking the olive oil with garlic, tomato paste, and chili flakes – it creates an amazing, aromatic flavor base for the sauce.
I think that’s about it. If you don’t have fresh basil, don’t worry about it, but I always love a few leaves of fresh basil swimming around in my sauce!
Easy Vodka Sauce
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for onions)
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for sauce base)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes (more if you like heat)
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil (about 6 leaves)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup or 1 cup of reserved pasta water
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
- In a large saucepan, add the butter and olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-8 minutes until they soften. Add the water and salt and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. You want them to be soft, a little stringy, and borderline caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe saucepan clean with a paper towel.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook for 8 minutes or so (follow your box directions) until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water for the sauce. Drain the rest and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to the saucepan you cooked the onions in over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let it sizzle for about 30 seconds-1 min. DON’T BURN IT. Add the tomato paste and chili flakes and stir together, creating a glorious-smelling paste and let cook for about a minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and stir in with the paste. Then add the vodka, heavy cream, sugar, and basil. Stir to combine and cook for a few minutes. Add salt and parmesan cheese to taste (I will never be mad at you for adding more parm cheese). Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the sauce and stir in, you can add more if you like it thinner.
- Lastly, when it comes to most creamy sauces, I like to add a pat of butter right at the end before serving, it creates a velvety, luxurious texture that nothing else can. Try it 🙂
- Toss the pasta in with the sauce. Serve in bowls and top with more parm and fresh basil if desired! Enjoy!
Thanks as always to FreshDirect for the ingredients! #fdambassador