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