When I interviewed AJ Hurst from the Vintage Brewing Company, he shared with me his favorite go-to pasta sauce. Now, like white sauce, I have avoided vodka sauce in the past. Though I like this ingredient:



I am a never big fan of this ingredient:


But I was determined to try it and I have to say, I am really glad I did.

I think this recipe taught me that a little goes a long way. A little cream is all you need for this recipe, it’s really the tomatoes, fresh basil, and onion that make up the backbone of the flavor. The vodka and cream just add an exclamation point to it.

AJ’s Vodka Sauce

2 (14.5 oz) cans of whole peeled tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup vodka
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Badger Girl Additions

1 cup mushrooms, sliced optional
2 chicken sausages, sliced optional

  1. Heat a saute pan on medium high heat.
  2. Add tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3.  Add sausages and mushrooms, if using. Stir to combine and simmer additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add fresh basil and stir to combine.
  5.  Stir in vodka and cream. Start with 1/4 cup vodka and 2 tablespoons of cream.
  6. This is a great time to start your pasta water. Turn down the sauce to medium low and let it simmer.
  7. Taste it as it simmers and decide if you want to add more cream or vodka. The vodka sharpens the flavors and the cream, well, it makes it more creamy.
  8. Serve with pasta. In the true Badger Girl fashion, I served it with whole wheat pasta on top of a bed of spinach.
  9. Enjoy!

Recipe Review:

Manatee and I were shocked how much we liked it. Sorry AJ, if that sounds harsh. It’s not you, it’s the heavy cream!

We loved it because the cream really didn’t take over the taste. It accentuated the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and onion. To be honest, I didn’t even think Manatee would touch it so I made it on a day that we had some good leftovers (one of his biggest points of contention with me is that he does not get to eat leftovers, poor guy) but he ended up eating this instead.

This is a very simple way to have a fancy pasta dinner. Sure beats Ragu! And I think for us, the biggest surprise was it didn’t have to be rich or decadent. You can really control that through how much cream and vodka you add.

Thanks for the recipe AJ!

Do you make vodka sauce at home? What is your favorite recipe? AJ told me that fresh basil was the secret ingredient here. Have you ever tried it with fresh basil before?


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