Is there anything better than a big plate of pasta? Answer: no! It’s easy to make, filling, and there are probably about one million different ways to change up the sauce or other ingredients so it’s never boring. I wanted to share my favorite way to make a classic sauce: red pepper vodka sauce. If you’ve never had (or heard of) vodka sauce before, it’s typically an orange sauce made from tomatoes and cream and vodka gets added along the way to help bring out the flavors. It’s kind of like adding wine when you make risotto. The majority of the alcohol cooks out, but the addition of vodka or wine can add to the overall flavor of the dish. More than the vodka, it’s really the cream that I love. I don’t know very many creamy sauces that I’d say no to. Ha!
This red pepper vodka sauce is super easy to throw together and is made from just a few, simple ingredients. It’s packs a lot of flavor and not a bad amount of vegetables, too. You can top pretty much any type of pasta or gnocchi with this sauce. I will sometimes add some kind of protein like veggie sausage or shrimp. And, this red pepper vodka sauce is good as a pizza sauce as well—my extensive research has shown this to be true. 🙂
See the recipe card below for the full recipe. But, you start with a roasted red pepper. You can buy them (usually sold in a jar) or you can easily make your own. I use the same method as I do this roasted red pepper soup recipe.
Once you have the pepper roasted and your other veggies chopped, it’s just a matter of cooking everything in a pan while your pasta boils. This comes together quick! So don’t be afraid to make this on a weekend. Or you can prep the sauce over the weekend, save in a sealed container in the refrigerator, and use later in the week. If you want to keep the sauce longer than a week, I’d recommend freezing it.
I haven’t tried this with a non-dairy milk or cream yet, but I have a feeling it would still be super delicious as all the flavor really comes from the vegetables and tomato paste. So, if you’re looking to cut back on dairy currently or are vegan, you could still totally enjoy this recipe with just a few tweaks. Enjoy and happy pasta making! xo. Emma
Red Pepper Vodka Sauce
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 ounces vodka
- 6 ounces one small can tomato paste
- 1 cup whole milk or cream
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 cup pasta water
- salt and pepper
- chopped basil for serving
Roast your red pepper (unless you've simply bought roasted red peppers already). Remove the stem, inside veins, and seeds from the bell pepper. Cut in fourths. Rub a little olive oil over a baking pan and place the peppers on the pan, cut side down. Cook under the broiler until the skins become charred looking, about 6-8 minutes for me. I find that broilers are all a little different, so keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
Once you remove them from the oven, place in a plastic bag (or reusable bag of some kind). Seal and let them steam for a couple of minutes. Once they are just cool enough to handle, remove the bags and peel off the skins.
Go ahead and begin boiling water for your pasta now.
Finely chop the roasted pepper, onion, and mince the garlic. In a large sauce pan, add the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until it softens well. Then add the roasted pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Then add the vodka and cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the tomato paste.
Then stir in the cream and cheese. The mixture will be pretty thick at this point. Once the pasta has cooked, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and add it to the sauce.
Serve over the warm pasta with some chopped basil.
You can store this sauce for up to a week in a seal container in the refrigerator. If you plan to store it longer, I would recommend freezing the sauce.