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Velvety Rich Vodka Sauce with Pork Belly & Peas

This Velvety Rich Vodka Sauce with Pork Belly and Peas is the perfect cure for a cooking funk. If you’re a fan of Italian style food, but have been eating the same old red or white sauce weekly, do yourself a favor and make this indulgent, creamy, rich recipe. Your taste buds (and family) will thank you for the change up….we promise!

This is a bowl full of velvety rich vodka sauce with pork belly and peas mixed together with pasta
Bowl of vodka sauce with pork belly and peas

What exactly is vodka sauce?

Where the idea of using vodka in place of wine came from is disputed.  What’s important is, sometime in the 1970s in either Italy or New York City, a genius chef created magic.  I like to imagine an overworked and over-served chef had a late night prepping in the kitchen and accidentally, in his or her exhaustion, reached for the closest bottle of alcohol to deglaze the marinara…whoops, it wasn’t wine! It was vodka. And voila; the chef’s mistake became the new hot dish.  

White bowl with vodka sauce only

Many recipes call for just a touch of vodka. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Being nearly flavorless, the alcohol works by exposing aromatics and coalescing the individual ingredients into one congruent, complimentary sauce. If you don’t add enough, it can’t do its job well. The alcohol also needs time and heat. The more time and heat you can give it, the richer and velvetier experience you will get. Give a little, get a little.  And not to worry, heat and time evaporate alcohol, so it won’t be the pasta that over-serves you…

Can I freeze this pink sauce?

Yes absolutely, but freeze the sauce before adding in the cream and parmesan.  You can reheat the frozen sauce on the stove with an extra half cup of water in the pan and cover.  Once dethawed and simmering, proceed with the recipe at the point of adding the cream and cornstarch (or pasta water). This will provide you with a smooth sauce vs a chunky one.

This is a close up view of pasta with the vodka sauce, peas and pork belly covered in parmesan cheese and fresh basil
Pasta, vodka sauce, peas and pork belly covered in basil and parmesan cheese

Can I pair this sauce with a different type of protein or veggie?

Vodka Sauce is complimentary of a variety of pastas.  It’s fantastic with rigatoni, penne, fusilli, tagliatelle, or gnocchi!  I haven’t tried other pasta types with the sauce, but the world is your oyster!

Great Meat Protein Options: Meatballs, Italian Sausage, or Bacon

Vegetarian Style: Peas with Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms, Sautéed Onions & Bell Peppers

Tips and Tricks:

*Your ingredients need to be blended or emulsified before adding the milk and cheese.  While the sauce is simmering, I use my spatula to break up the Whole San Marzano tomatoes into smaller chunks and use an immersion blender at the end.  Using the emulsifier versus transferring and blending hot liquids is much more convenient, not to mention safer!  If you don’t have an emulsifier, I like this one. It’s a kitchen work horse and can be used for all sort of dishes.

*When stirring the simmering sauce, make sure to scrape the bottom with your spatula, don’t just mix.  If it seems to be continually crusting on the bottom of the pan, turn down the flame.

*You can use pasta water in place of cornstarch to mix with cream.  The starch in the pasta water has the same effect as cornstarch.  I prefer using pasta water, but some gf pastas aren’t starchy enough.  If you use this method, remove half a cup of pasta water just before the pasta is done cooking, while hot, pour in the cream, mix and pour into the sauce.

*If you’re looking for a great Gluten Free Pasta option, my favorite is this brand. It reheats really well the next day without becoming mushy (like many other gluten free options). If you are using a different brand and are unsure of how well it reheats, I recommend separating the sauce and pasta until you are ready to eat it. This way, you can enjoy left overs for several days and your pasta won’t ruin the sauce.

Velvety Rich Vodka Sauce with Pork Belly & Peas

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Recipe by Stevens Haen Course: DinnerCuisine: Italian
Cook Mode

Keep the screen of your device on

Servings

5

Cups
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

45

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 Cups Roughly Chopped Sweet Onion

  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil

  • 3 Tbsp Garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 28 ounce Cans of San Marzano Tomatoes

  • 1 Cup Vodka (I use Titos)

  • 3 Tbsp Tomato Paste

  • 1/2-1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil, lightly packed not chopped stem on

  • 1 Tbsp Sea Salt

  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

  • 3 Tbsp Salted Butter

  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch

  • 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

  • 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar (Optional)

  • Extra Basil and Parmesan (for garnish)

  • 1 1/2 Cups Frozen Peas

  • 1 Pound Pork Belly

  • 1 Pound Pasta of your choice

Directions

  • Preheat Oven to 425 F and line cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil
  • Slice pork belly into 1/4 inch pieces and stir with 1/2 Tablespoon of salt. Lay out on pre-lined cookie sheet and place in middle rack of oven for 24-26 minutes. Shake the batch or mix up with a spoon about halfway through and watch closely at the end. You want the pork to get crispy and dark, but not burnt. Once done, set aside.
  • Pour 1.5 cups warm water over frozen peas and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat and olive oil and onions. Saute the onions until they just start to brown.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, red pepper flakes and garlic. Continue stirring occasionally for about 2 minute as the tomato paste turns bright red, then slowly pour in the vodka while stirring to deglaze the pan. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes cooking off some of the alcohol.
  • Carefully, pour into the saucepan the two cans of San Marzano Tomatoes along with the tomato juice, the salt, basil, and pepper.
  • Simmer at a medium-low temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the butter and let the sauce simmer for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Blend Sauce (I recommend using an immersion blender)
  • In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and slowly pour in the heavy cream while stirring to avoid clumps.
  • Pour the slurry in with the sauce, along with the parmesan cheese and continue stirring until well mixed. Add the cooked pork belly and peas.
  • Let the sauce return to a simmer for another couple minutes.
  • Boil Water and cook pasta to package directions.
  • Optional- Taste the sauce, I prefer a more balanced sauce and add granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time. If it is to your liking continue to the next step.
  • Pour your desired amount of sauce into a sauté pan with your already cooked/strained penne, sauté for two minutes on medium/high heat allowing the pasta to absorb the sauce.
  • Plate, garnish, serve, and enjoy!

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Refrigerate:  This sauce will last for 3-4 days in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

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