This luscious homemade vodka sauce made from fresh tomatoes takes traditional vodka sauce to the next level! It is made of a fresh cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and a variety of big tomatoes for a perfectly balanced tomato cream sauce.
Buckle up because this is the best vodka sauce recipe ever! Vodka sauce is already one of my favorite things, but making it from fresh tomatoes not only feels good to do, but tastes out of this world!
For those of you who don't know, tomatoes are my number one favorite food. At my corporate job, my coworkers would bring in pints of cherry or grape tomatoes and leave them on my desk. I literally eat tomatoes nearly every day. So how could I not have a fresh tomato-based sauce recipe on here!
Yes, this recipe takes a little more effort since it doesn't use canned tomatoes, but trust me when I say it's worth it! It is perfect for a dinner party, to wow your spouse on date night, or even if you're staying in on a Friday night and want to treat yourself (me last night)!
- Big tomatoes: You will need 2 pounds of any big tomatoes. I typically use a blend of roma tomatoes and on-the-vine tomatoes but you could also use heirloom, brandywine, or san marzano. These meaty tomatoes will give our homemade sauce substance
- Small tomatoes: For small tomatoes, you will need cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. 1 pound of grape and half a pound of cherry. This gives the vodka sauce a sweet yet rich flavor.
- Olive oil: Some olive oil is used to coat the tomatoes before roasting. You will need just ¼ cup.
- Salt: Kosher salt is added to the tomatoes prior to roasting to intensify the fruit's natural flavor. In addition to the kosher salt, you will also need 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
- Butter: 2 tablespoons of good quality unsalted butter are needed for this recipe. Since this recipe has such simple ingredients, you will want to make sure they are of high quality so they shine in the sauce.
- Garlic: As you all know, we don't skimp on garlic here! I'm an honest garlic quoter. This recipe needs 8 large cloves of garlic.
- Onion: This sauce recipe calls for 1 large yellow onion. Yellow onions are a bit more mild and sweet than a white onion.
- Pepper: We got two peppers here... black pepper and red pepper flakes. You will need ½ teaspoon of black pepper to even the flavor profile of the sauce. Red pepper flakes are added based on how much heat you like. I like quite a bit of heat and add about ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. If you can't tolerate much spice, add just a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Vodka: ½ cup of vodka is used in this sauce to give it that zing on the tongue. Any neutral, smooth, middle of the road vodka can be used in this sauce. You don't want cheap vodka but also there is no point in using the expensive stuff.
- Heavy cream: We want her thick & creamy so we add ½ cup of heavy cream. Make sure the heavy cream is at room temperature to be easily incorporated into the warm sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: Last but definitely not least, sharp delicious parmesan cheese! Make sure not to use the pre-shredded cheese here, as it is covered in preservatives and won't melt correctly. Buy a block of cheese and shred ½ cup, which is about 4 ounces.
variations & substitutions
Add herbs! What pairs better with tomatoes than herbs? Try adding fresh basil, fresh oregano, or fresh thyme to give this creamy tomato sauce a different flavor profile.
If you don't have vodka on hand, you can substitute it. You can substitute it 1:1 with white wine, however the end result won't have as much of a bite. You can also just use chicken stock for a non-alcohol alternative.
To brighten and lighten the homemade sauce a little bit, add fresh lemon juice. Adding 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon can balance out the sweetness of the small tomatoes.
tips & tricks
Don't skip the reduction of the tomato puree. This step is crucial to have a flavorful sauce. The longer the tomatoes reduce, the more concentrated that tomato flavor becomes.
The blender you use is important. You will want to use a high quality blender to ensure a creamy sauce. I use an immersion blender but a Vitamix or ninja blender are also great options.
step by step instructions
1. Preheat & prep. Preheat your oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Prep fresh tomatoes. On one of your prepared baking sheets, place the grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and kosher salt and toss. On the other baking sheet, place your quartered big tomatoes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and kosher salt and toss.
3. Roast the tomatoes. Place both sheet pans in the oven to roast. The smaller tomatoes will take about 20 minutes to roast, whereas the bigger tomatoes will take about 40 minutes to roast. You can tell they are done by their golden color and fragrant aroma.
4. Cool & blend. Let the tomatoes cool for 5-10 minutes. Then place them into your high quality blender or a large bowl using an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes. Set aside.
5. Saute onion and garlic. In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the unsalted butter. I like using both olive oil and butter for their different flavor profiles in this sauce. Add the onion, salt, and black pepper. Cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Lastly add in the red pepper flakes.
6. Vodka it up! Carefully add the vodka into the pot. Simmer until the vodka has reduced by half.
7. Reduce the pureed tomatoes. Add in the pureed tomatoes. Stir to combine all components of the sauce. Simmer on low heat with the lid on for 1-2 hours. The reduction process is the most important step in this sauce. The more the sauce reduces, the stronger the tomato flavor will be. I usually reduce my sauce for the full 2 hours, but if you are in a rush, 1 hour will do.
8. Blend again. Remove from the heat and slightly cool. Then pour the mixture back into your high quality blender or a large bowl using an immersion blender to make it smooth. Blend for up to 2 minutes to ensure the reduced tomatoes are not chunky and super smooth.
9. Let's make it creamy! The most satisfying part of this process, adding the cream and cheese! This is what gives the sauce that classic pink color and creamy flavor. Add the blended sauce back to the large pot over low heat. Pour in the heavy cream & sprinkle on the parmesan cheese. Using a large spoon, mix until the sauce is completely incorporated and luscious.Your sauce is now complete, bon apetit!
Make pasta alla vodka by serving this pink sauce over your favorite cooked pasta. Many classic pasta dishes use vodka sauce like rigatoni alla vodka, classic penne alla vodka, and gnocchi alla vodka. Add a simple salad to complete the meal.
storage & reheating
Store leftover vodka sauce in an airtight container (a jar works great) for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze leftover sauce by placing in an airtight container in the freezer. An accessible way to do this is by pouring into a freezer bag, getting all the excess air out, and sealing tight. This creamy sauce can last up to 3 months in your freezer.
Vodka sauce is best reheated in a saucepan. Pour into a large saucepan on medium-low heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until warm throughout.
What vodka can you use for vodka sauce?
- You can use any neutral, smooth, middle of the road vodka for vodka sauce.
What meat goes best with vodka sauce?
- Vodka sauce pairs amazingly with a variety of different meats. Try chicken, shrimp, or italian sausage with creamy spicy vodka sauce.
Why did my vodka sauce break?
- Vodka sauce can separate when adding rich fat like cream to the tomato base. To avoid this, ensure the tomato base is over low heat and your heavy cream is at room temperature. This will easily incorporate the cream and tomato together for the most luscious smooth vodka sauce.
how to video
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