Grossy’s Vodka Sawce

The process of making vodka sawce is one of the most visually exciting experiences I’ve had with cooking. I’ve been making a recipe that my talented friend Chris shared with me a long time ago, and it’s completely flawless. It’s been the most popular of all my pasta sauce recipes, and for good reason. Not only is it inappropriately thick (same) and illegally glossy (also same), but it tastes how comfort feels. Call an ambulance honey, just in case you can’t handle it! 

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Grossy's Vodka Sawce

Grossy’s Vodka Sawce

  • Author: Dan Pelosi

What You’ll Need

Units Scale
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons vodka
  • Freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil, butter, and a pinch of pepper flakes (if using). Cook, whisking to blend the fats together while the butter is melting. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Whisk until the tomato paste is deep red, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the rigatoni to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.
  4. As soon as the pasta hits the water, add the heavy cream to the skillet and continue whisking until the cream is fully incorporated and the sauce color goes from neon orange to pumpkin spice, about 5 minutes. Add the vodka to the sauce and notice the smell of a tomato martini fill your kitchen. Cook, continuing to whisk, until the alcohol cooks out, the martini smell is gone, and the sauce is perfectly smooth, about 5 minutes more.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the sauce. Continue to simmer and whisk until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without sliding off, about 20 minutes. (It is absolutely worth the wait.)
  6. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir until coated and glossy. Divide among plates, top with Parmesan, and serve.

Note: Any nondairy cream and butter will work great in this recipe for an easy vegan version. If you’re planning to reheat leftovers later, make sure you nab an extra cup of pasta water now! Save the water in the fridge and when it’s time, add a couple splashes to the pot as you warm the pasta. The starchy water will help the sawce come back to life as a smooth, glossy girl.

Make it step by step with me:

1. Add 8 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter to pan.

2. Over medium heat, melt butter, red pepper flakes (optional) and olive oil together in a saucepan.

3. Grate 3 garlic cloves.

4. Measure out 6 tablespoons tomato paste.

5. Add grated garlic and tomato paste to pan. Whisk until fragrant.

6. At the same time, boil pasta in salty water.

This should smell amazing.

7. Measure out 2 cups heavy cream.

8. Add to pan.

9. Whisk cream into sauce for 5-6 minutes until darkened.

Like so.

10. Add vodka and whisk another 5-6 minutes, until alcohol is cooked out.

Check on your pasta.

11. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

12. Drain pasta.

13. Add ½ cup pasta water to the sawce. Whisk sawce until inappropriately thicc, adding more pasta water to loosen if necessary. Sauce may take up to 20 minutes to get thick enough, and it is absolutely worth the wait. 

14. Add pasta to sauce and stir until coated and glossy.

15. Sprinkle with grated parmesan or pecorino and extra red pepper flakes.

I do not add fresh herbs on top of my vodka sauce. I like it pure!