I love it when I come up with a recipe that’s full of real ingredients AND is easy enough to make any night of the week. But I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when that dish is special enough to serve as a great meal when entertaining. And that’s exactly what my Best Ever Pasta with Vodka Sauce recipe is—quick, easy, made from real ingredients, and OH SO delicious!
I recently made this recipe for a birthday party for one of my best friends, and it was a huge hit! It’s so flavorful that it works well vegetarian-style or with a little meat added (I’ve suggested ham and perhaps some bacon as an option in the recipe). Pair it with a loaf of fresh, whole wheat baguette, a salad with homemade Italian dressing, and you’ve got the perfect meal. Just make sure to make a big enough batch—you’ll want some for leftovers! 🙂
So if you’re a vodka sauce fan, forget those store-bought versions. Personally I don’t think they come close to my homemade sauce. In fact, this recipe is so good it stands toe-to-toe with your favorite Italian restaurant. Enjoy!
The Best Ever Pasta with Vodka Sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups onion chopped finely
- 1 cup celery chopped finely
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3/4 cup vodka
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup half and half or cream
- 1 pound whole grain pasta see notes
For a with-meat version:
- 1/2 pound ham or prosciutto thinly sliced and diced
- 4 slices of bacon diced
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- fresh basil or parsley chopped
- In a large skillet warm olive oil and cook onion, celery, and garlic over moderate heat. Stir until softened and onions are translucent.
- Add ham and bacon (optional and see notes) and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add vodka and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add tomatoes, cayenne, and herbs . Simmer another 10 minutes.
- Add half and half or cream. Simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. If you want a bit spicier sauce add some additional cayenne pepper.
- While sauce is cooking, bring 5 quarts of water to boil. Salt with several pinches of kosher or sea salt. Cook the pasta of your choice until al dente (tender but still firm).
- Drain pasta. Serve with sauce and garnish with parmesan cheese and some chopped basil or parsley.
Kitchen Tips and Resources:
- A great, multipurpose colander is a must for every kitchen, especially when you’re making pasta! I bought this OXO Good Grips colander as a replacement for a really old plastic one that I had bought at a dollar store in the 90’s. Who knows what kind of weird plastics and hormone-disrupting chemicals were in that old one. Yikes! Maybe it’s time you invest in a new colander as well.
- A great garlic press makes child’s play of mincing garlic. I love this top-rated one but there are lots of great alternatives out there at all sorts of kitchen, department, and discount stores.
- I love my Microplane zester/grater. It makes it so easy to add some finely grated parmesan cheese over any dish. And it’s also perfect for grating ginger or zesting lemons, limes, and oranges!
- Now I’m not a big drinker (in fact I rarely drink alcohol), but there are more an more organic, local brands out there these days. And on the top of my organic vodka list is a local favorite … Prairie Organic Spirits.