The Chef-Approved Ratio For Perfect Homemade Vodka Sauce Every Time

Vodka sauce should be near the top of your pasta repertoire. It's easy to make, incredibly versatile, and never fails to punch above its weight in flavor. Here to help us fine-tune our vodka sauce ratios is Vincent Benoliel, owner of Pasta Corner restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles, and Savta in NYC — a California-inspired restaurant that pays homage to Benoliel's roots learning to cook from his grandmother. 

When asked what the right amount of vodka to use is, Benoliel told us, "You can use the 85-15 rule: 85% of the tomatoes, cream, and other ingredients vs. 15% of vodka." When making a classic penne alla vodka dish, crushed tomatoes are the base while heavy cream adds substance. If you're having trouble wrapping your head around the math, start by translating everything into the same measurement system. Since canned tomatoes tell you how many ounces are inside, measure the vodka and other ingredients in ounces to stay consistent and simplify the math.

"It's typically around a fluid ounce of vodka per serving of sauce before it's cooked," Benoliel explained. While it may seem like alcohol is added to secretly get the whole family drunk, that's not what the booze in your vodka sauce is actually doing to the taste. Benoliel said, "The alcohol evaporates during the cooking. If the sauce tastes too strong, it should be cooked a bit longer."

Hasta la vista, vodka

If the alcohol evaporates (and vodka is essentially flavorless anyway), what's the point of adding it in the first place? Well, there's more to vodka than just alcohol. Benoliel explained, "The impact is subtle, but it's definitely there. The alcohol adds a bit of a punch to the sauce while balancing nicely with the fruitiness of the tomatoes — it's a good flavor enhancer." On top of flavor, vodka also contributes to the texture of the sauce. You end up with an iconically smooth sauce ready to slather itself on any pasta you like.

While any vodka will technically work, the best vodka for pasta sauce may not be what you'd expect. Your quadruple-filtered small-batch craft vodka is definitely a treat on its own, but you may want to think twice before cooking with it. Not only will most of it evaporate but its subtle flavors and smooth finish aren't going to transfer to the dish as well as you might think. A bottom- or middle-shelf vodka will get you the same results at a fraction of the price.