Store-bought vodka sauce is about the only kind I’d ever known until recently, when my quarantine cooking journey took me on a path to start exploring what vodka sauce is all about, and why it tastes so much more delicious – it seems like the answer is glaringly obvious by the title – than a plain red sauce.
It turns out the mix of a flavors and addition of a little balsamic vinegar, even more than the added vodka or heavy cream, is what really adds the signature punch.
I’ve made this a handful of times recently, and I think this is the perfect mix of creamy without going too overboard on the calories. This sauce thickens up and has a real stick-to-it attitude, so I enjoy it most with a pasta that has a lot of surface area or spaces for the sauce to cling on for the ride from bowl to fork to mouth.
Here I stirred in into fusilli with some homemade vegetarian meat balls I made with meatless ground.
Now that I have this easy technique down, those store-bought jars are going to be left on the shelf for others. But not you, because this is a sauce anyone can easily master.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
- 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup vodka
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pro tip: Use a skillet with a lid.
Once oil is heated, add diced onion and cook until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add whole tomatoes and break up with the back of a wooden spoon. Pour in vodka, tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Add lid and bring to a boil.
Once sauce starts to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. Cover and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a blender, grate parmesan cheese and add fresh basil leaves.
Once sauce has cooked and thickened a bit, stir in the cream. Carefully pour sauce into the blender with cheese and basil, and blend until smooth.
Taste, adjust seasoning and serve with your favorite prepared pasta.