Strange things happen in my kitchen.  Countless recipes wait in an imaginary line,  that most will stay in for years, until I finally get around to making them.  But occasionally a recipe casts a spell on me, forcing a menu change, a search for exotic ingredients, the abandonment of seasonal cooking, and my personal resolve to drop everything else and cook it right away, as soon as humanly possible.  I bring this up because it happened last weekend, when the  Barefoot Contessa’s guest chef, Joseph Realmuto,  shared the recipe for his restaurant’s favorite tomato sauce (for the past 22 years).  It involved vodka,  slow roasted tomatoes and onions, and was finished with heavy cream.   I stopped in my tracks, slowly turned, headed  to the kitchen,  and made it.  And that, my friends, was the right move… 😉


(adapted from Joseph Realmuto, original recipe from La Vecchia Bettola, Firenze)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 T dried red pepper flakes
1 T dried oregano
1/2 cup vodka
1 can best quality whole tomatoes (28 ounces)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh herbs of your choice (oregano, basil)
parmiggiano reggiano cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano, and saute for a couple of minutes, mixing constantly. Add the vodka and simmer until the mixture is slightly reduced. Drain the tomatoes and add them to the skillet, crushing them slightly with your hands or a large wooden spoon (careful, they will splatter!). Season lightly with salt. Cover the skillet and place in the oven for one and a half hours. Remove the skillet from the oven, let it cool for 15 minutes, then place the contents in a blender. Puree until smooth.

While you cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water, finish the sauce back in the skillet, setting over medium heat, and adding heavy cream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, add the cooked pasta, and allow them to gently simmer for a few more minutes. Add fresh herbs and parmiggiano cheese right before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: In this day and age it’s hard to believe I’d even bother with another recipe for tomato sauce.   I usually alternate between my two favorites: the first involves a quick saute of onions in olive oil, a can of tomatoes, salt, pepper and some herbs; the second is a   very popular recipe from Marcella Hazan, worth all the butter it calls for. 😉

With the addition of this recipe I have my own tomato trilogy. It’s a breeze to prepare, but the combination of vodka and slow roasted tomatoes makes it taste complex. I reduced the cream  because 1 full cup of heavy cream seemed excessive;  feel free to do as your heart (and palate) desires. The vodka provides a background of heat that’s perfect with the intense flavor of tomatoes, concentrated by roasting.  It’s a delicious sauce that may be prepared in advance and blended right before finishing.


  1. Miam, I love the idea of adding vodka to a tomato sauce! Not that I’m usually a vodka -or any alcohol- drinker (just in case my kids happen to read this comment, one day, hahaha;), but I love to (once in a while, though) cook or bake with alcohol: red wine in my tomato sauces, rhum in some cake batters, vodka with a lemon cream tart, … so this recipe is appealing. Thanks!
    I’ll soon try it with soya cream, as we’re here on a non dairy diet.


  2. This sounds really yummy. Too bad I can’t make it – I know the alcohol evaporates during cooking, but the taste is still there, and I don’t want my kids to get used to that taste so early in life. Will have to wait for a couple more years – but my pile of recipes that I printed out is huge, too, so I’ll have some things to cook in the meantime😉.


    • I thought the same thing! But I just used chicken broth the second time I made it instead because I couldn’t handle the strong flavor of the vodka, and let me tell you, it was that much better! And even if you do half vodka and half chicken broth as I do most times, you cant taste it at all!


  3. adorei a dica, mas na verdade vim aqui hoje, alem de ler a delícia preparada por voce, para te dar os parabéns pelo seu dia, que seja o fechamento de um ciclo e o inicio de um novo, recheado de bons momentos, boas risadas, grandes amizades e desejar que possa estar sempre ao lado daqueles que voce mais ama, como muita saude e alegria. feliz aniversário. bjs


  4. Que coincidência, uma deliciosa receita de molho de tomate (estou sempre aberta a novas descobertas nessa área!) e seu aniversário! Parabéns pelo dia e que continue sempre com esse seu jeito gostoso de escrever (e ser) e com essa maravilha de blog! Que esta nova fase seja repleta de descobertas maravilhosas e muita saúde e paz!
    Um beijo!


    • Verena, delicia de mensagem…. pois e’, mais um aninho, e’ dificil acreditar que completei meio seculo… mas, a verdade e’ que os ultimos dez anos foram maravilhosos, e se vem com umas rugas a mais, e’ um preco bem pequeno a pagar 😉


    • I hope you try it… don’t be put off by the color, which is not as red as a “usual” tomato sauce. And it’s not just because of the cream, already after blending the color mellowed down considerably. Must be the roasting + the onions.


  5. Looks delicious! My usual sauce is very busy with lots of veggies and meat . . . I’d love a simpler one to add to the repertoire! =) This is a must-try!


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