Like the flavor of vodka sauce but want to add some meat? Discover how easy it is to make vodka sauce with meat. There are so many different combinations from shrimp alla vodka to vodka sauce with ground beef. Learn how to make this bright, flavorful sauce that brings meat and shrimp to life.
I seriously can’t get enough of this creamy easy vodka sauce recipe. It is so tasty and a bit different from the usual. It combines a red sauce, heavy cream with a touch of vodka creating a vibrant orange-pink sauce the whole family will love!
If you’re worried about cooking with vodka, just know that the alcohol in the vodka cooks off when it’s cooked. Also, it doesn’t give the vodka pasta sauce recipe an overwhelming taste of alcohol.
As a matter of fact, once the sauce is cooked, there is little or no alcohol left in it at all and all you have is a tasty sauce where the vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes.
With a few fresh herbs added and some fresh parmesan cheese you have yourself a five star meal. Made in no time at all, you’ll love this easy weeknight vodka spaghetti sauce recipe.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- It’s fast and fabulous, perfect for any day of the week including busy weeknight dinners.
- The perfect pasta dish for gatherings both large and small. It’s always a hit.
- With so many options you can literally make a different vodka pasta sauce each time you prepare it.
- Use vodka sauce in recipes and dishes just like marinara sauce so consider trying a pizza casserole or pasta casserole using vodka spaghetti sauce, veal or chicken parmesan, ravioli or tortellini or even lasagna.
What is Vodka Pasta Sauce?
Vodka pasta sauce has its roots in Italian-American cuisine and is a smooth tomato sauce flavored with Italian herbs, like basil and oregano, that’s mixed with cream and vodka transforming it from a traditional red sauce to an orange-pink sauce.
It’s most famously associated with penne in dishes such as penne alla vodka but really you can serve it up with just about any pasta.
Creating dishes made with pasta sauce with meat includes a wide variety of options including:
- Penne alla vodka with shrimp
- Vodka chicken pasta
- Vodka sauce with ground beef
- Sausage and vodka sauce
- Penne alla vodka with bacon
- Vodka sauce with pancetta
Honestly the sky’s the limit. These are just a few suggestions of ways to take this delicious vodka pasta sauce recipe to the next level.
All you need to make the vodka sauce for this recipe is a handful of ingredients. Also think about what meat you want to add, there’s lots of different options that work!
- Pasta: Any pasta such as penne, rigatoni or bow tie works!
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Fresh garlic
- Salt and pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Olive oil
- Whipping cream or heavy cream
The complete list of ingredients and quantities is in the recipe card.
How to Make Vodka Pasta Sauce Recipe
Step 1: Saute
Heat a skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the olive oil, onions, and garlic.
Cook the vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 2: Blend
Add the whole peeled tomatoes, sauteed onion and garlic, and the spices (basil, oregano, salt) to a blender or food processor. Blend until a smooth puree is formed.
Step 3: Simmer
Return the blended mixture to the skillet and add the heavy cream and vodka. Stir it well with a wooden spoon.
Cook over a medium/low heat for 25 minutes stirring often.
When the sauce is ready, turn off heat and leave the sauce on the burner.
Step 4: Cook Pasta
In a large pot boil salted water and add pasta of choice (penne, rigatoni, bow ties, etc.) and cook according to package instructions or al dente. Drain well in a colander after cooking.
Step 5: Serve
Add drained pasta to the vodka sauce and serve.
Garnish with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
There are quite a few different ways you can change up this vodka sauce with meat to create many different meals. Let me take you through some of the options and how to make them.
Vodka Sauce Pasta with Chicken
Easily elevate your simple vodka sauce using grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken. Heck, I’ve used leftover chicken before and LOVED the results.
Simply add the cooked chicken while the sauce is simmering. You can shred or tear the chicken or just chop it into bite sized pieces. As always, the choice is yours.
If you want to use raw chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces and cook it with the onions. Do not add the chicken and onions to the blender when pureeing the tomatoes and other ingredients with the sauce.
Pasta with vodka sauce and chicken is a winning combination.
Vodka Shrimp Pasta
Adding shrimp to this vodka spaghetti is another easy and delicious option. Vodka sauce with shrimp on pasta is sure to impress.
Shrimp is so easy to cook and it takes no time at all. Simply add the shrimp to your sauce a few minutes before you wish to serve dinner.
Watch the back of the shrimp where it’s thickest (opposite the tail) for the shift in color from translucent (transparent or clear) to opaque (non transparent, blurred). Once opaque, your shrimp are cooked, just be sure not to overcook.
Penne Alla Vodka with Pancetta
Cook a half pound of bacon, ham or pancetta until edges start to crisp in a large skillet over medium high heat (about 3 minutes).
Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels. Crumble it up when it’s completely cooled.
Use bacon fat to cook the onions or wipe the pan with a paper towel and add olive oil. Then proceed with cooking the remainder of the recipe. Add the meat into the sauce right at the end or crumble it up over the top of the pasta.
Vodka Sauce with Meat
Choose a half-pound of any type of ground meat including: ground beef, pork, sausage (no casings), turkey or chicken.
Crumble ground meat into the pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for five minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and continue to cook. Season with salt and pepper.
When meat is cooked, drain off any excess grease. Then continue cooking the recipe as indicated in the main instructions.
Other Recipe Variations
- Intense cheese flavor: Add Parmesan rind to the sauce while it simmers, remove before serving
- Veggies: Add in ½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms or diced sweet peppers to the skillet and saute with the onions.
- Spicy: Add in crushed red pepper flakes or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
- Sweeter sauce: Add in 1 teaspoon sugar if desired to reduce acidity making a pink sauce with a tad more sweetness.
- Vodka sauce with meatballs: Top off your bowl of penne alla vodka with cooked meatballs.
- Substitute jarred marinara sauce to speed things up. When making this swap, cook until heated and then finish the sauce off with the heavy cream and vodka.
- Swap out the onions with leeks to make the sauce creamier.
- Use half and half instead of heavy cream. This will make a lighter sauce but it might also not be quite as creamy.
- Refrigerator: Store remaining sauce and pasta in a refrigerator for up to 3-4 days in an airtight container.
- Freezer: Not recommended when the cream is added as the dairy may separate and change the texture of the sauce. If you desired, store the tomato sauce in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months and then added the heavy cream to finish off when you reheat.
- Make ahead: You can make this vodka pasta sauce the day before you need it and easily add your cooked pasta to the sauce while it reheats
- Store the sauce and pasta separate if you know you will have leftovers to prevent the pasta getting too soft.
- Experiment with different types of pastas like spaghetti or linguini, but the more common types served with this sauce are penne, rigatoni, macaroni and bowties.
- Use real parmesan cheese, preferably a high-quality shaved or grated parmesan cheese if you don’t want to buy a brick and grate it yourself
- Try to use high quality canned tomatoes like San Marzano to end up with the best-tasting sauce when all is said and done
- Use fresh ingredients whenever possible
- Add reserved pasta water if the sauce becomes too thick
You can replace the vodka with 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar if you want or need to skip the vodka
Penne pasta is the traditional pasta used with simple vodka sauce, but any short pasta like rigatoni, bow tie, farfalle or rotini will work and work well. Heck, I served this dish with spaghetti and there were no complaints. And no leftovers!
In our opinion, there is no “best” pasta for this easy vodka sauce recipe because it’s all about the sauce and this sauce delivers.
Vodka is added to pasta sauce to add flavor similar to adding wine to various dishes. It combines with the flavors of the other ingredients enhancing them and making everything taste better.
The sauce is generally a base of tomato, cream and vodka but you can definitely add meat if you want it. There are lots of options including shrimp, chicken, ground meats and more.
More Delicious Pasta Dishes to Try
- Easy Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- Our Favorite Loaded Pasta Carbonara
- Creamy Chicken Parmesan Pasta
- The Best Baked Stuffed Shells
- Awesome Alfredo Sauce
Vodka Sauce with Meat Pasta Recipe
- large skillet
- ½ pound uncooked pasta penne, rigatoni, bowtie or other short pasta
- ⅓ cup onion chopped
- 1 28 ounce can canned tomatoes diced
- 2-3 tablespoon tomato paste or ½ small can
- 1-2 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 2 teaspoon pepper or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional, or add more to taste
- ½ cup vodka
- ½ cup heavy cream half and half
- 2-3 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound ground beef, pork, sausage (no casings), or turkey
- 6 slices bacon or pancetta chopped, about ¼ pound
- ½ pound shrimp, defrosted and deveined (10-12 shrimp)
- 1 -1 ½ cups rotisserie, leftover, grilled chicken, cut up into bite sized pieces
- ½ pound raw chicken breast or chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into bite sized pieces
- ½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup peppers, green, yellow, orange or red, chopped
- parmesan cheese grated for serving if desired
- Get out and measure all of your ingredients.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic. Sauté until soft (about 5 minutes) stirring occasionally.
- In a blender add the whole peeled tomatoes, sauteed onion and garlic, and the spices (basil, oregano, salt). Blend until a smooth puree.
- Return the blended mixture to the skillet and add the cream and vodka. Stir. Cook over a medium/low heat for 25 minutes stirring often.
- In a pot boil water. Add ½ lb of pasta of choice (penne, rigatoni, bow ties, etc..) and cook according to instructions.
- Turn off heat but let sauce stay on burner.
- Add drained pasta to the vodka sauce and serve. Garnish with desired choice like fresh basil.
- Enjoy every bite!
- Cook bacon, ham or pancetta until edges start to crisp in a large skillet. About 3 minutes.
- Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels. Crumble when cooled
- Use bacon fat to cook the onions or wipe the pan with paper towel and add olive oil and set over medium heat.
- Mix crumbled bacon into the sauce just before serving or sprinkle over the top of the pasta when serving.
Ground Meat, Optional
- Crumble ground meat or raw, cut up chicken into the pan.
- Add onions and mushrooms and cook for five minutes.
- Add peppers and garlic and continue to cook.
- Add salt and pepper.
- When meat is cooked continue cooking the recipe as instructed in the recipe card.
- Add cooked chicken while sauce is simmering.
- Add the shrimp to the sauce during the last few minutes of simmering. Shrimp only take a few minutes to cook.
- Simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat and serve.