April 30, 2019

From The Recipe Vault: Tony’s Vodka Cream Sauce

by Joe Bonadio

Here at the Seven Ovens Blog, one of the requests we get a lot is for a simple, cook-at-home recipe from Tony’s kitchen. And it only makes sense: San Francisco is a town full of serious home chefs, and we’ve got a lot of them among our readership.

Of course, your wish is my command, so I recently managed to coax a classic out of Tony: his wonderful Vodka Cream Sauce. It’s a perfect choice for our first recipe on the blog: it shows up in different guises on all of Tony’s menus, it’s easy to prepare, and it lends itself to experimentation. And most importantly, the stuff is scrumptious.

“Vodka cream sauce is a light tomato cream sauce that’s popular on the East Coast, but you don’t see it out on the West Coast that often,” Tony says. “We fooled around with it at Tony’s and Capo’s for a long time. You see it in our pasta dishes quite a bit.”

Because it uses cream, it’s more Italian-American than a classic Italian recipe, Tony explains. “It appears on our menus a lot,” he says. “There’s a pizza called the Drunken Sicilian that we have at Tony’s, it’s actually one of our more popular pizzas. This is pretty much the same sauce we use on that pizza.”

The recipe is very versatile, and easy to change up by adding different ingredients. It’s great in its basic form but wide open for improvising, making it a great mother sauce.

Tony himself prefers the ‘standard’: tomato sauce, vodka, a touch of cream, garlic, salt and pepper. “But if you want to make it spicy and add Calabrian chiles to it, you can,” Tony says. “Or cook down some fresh onions with it, either way it’s great.

“You’ll love it.”

Tony’s Vodka Cream Sauce

This recipe, courtesy of Pizza Today magazine, is perfect for either pizza or pasta.


  • 2 ounces super heavy tomato sauce or paste
  • 8-10 ounces fine ground tomatoes
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces heavy cream
  • ¼ ounce Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper


  • ¼ ounce chopped garlic
  • ¼ ounce minced Calabrese pepper
  • ½ ounce diced white onions
  • ½ ounce peas
  • ¼ ounce diced smoked pancetta


  1. Blend both tomato sauces using an immersion blender.
  2. Set heat on medium. In a medium to large sauté pan, slightly heat your olive oil.
  3. Place the tomato sauce into the sauté pan and continue stirring for about 2 minutes until simmering.
  4. Carefully place the vodka into the pan and allow the alcohol to burn off. I prefer to add the vodka to the simmering tomato sauce. I feel you don’t get a bitter flavor from the vodka this way.
  5. Once the alcohol has burned off, add your heavy cream and continue stirring until your sauce becomes lightly pink to orange.
  6. Cook this down a bit, but don’t let the sauce break and separate.
  7. Salt and pepper your sauce. I prefer my vodka cream sauce to be seasoned more than other sauces, so I am a little heavy on the salt and pepper.
  8. If you are using the optional ingredients, I would sweat the ingredients in the oil prior to adding the tomato sauce.
  9. Then generously stir them in before adding the vodka. If you feel the heat of the alcohol is too intense for the ingredients you could add them after the alcohol burns off, but I prefer to add them before. It’s all personal preference.
  10. Let your sauce cool down before adding it to your pizza before the bake (I actually prefer to add it hot directly onto the pizza when it comes out of the oven).
  11. Grated Parmigiano or Romano and a little chopped parsley works well as a finishing ingredient. Enjoy!
Tony At Expo2
Tony takes questions from the crowd at the recent International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. | Photo: Joe Bonadio