Why Vodka Sauce Is So Popular Right Now

Known and loved in Italy and America alike, vodka sauce is a staple on pasta menus. Paesana describes the sauce as an acidic pink sauce mixed with vodka with a consistency somewhere in the middle of Alfredo and marinara sauce. This thin, rich sauce can be used with a range of pasta noodles including penne, rigatoni, and even mixed with cured meat.

The mysterious origins of penne alla vodka and the sauce are somewhat unclear. One story is that the creamy sauce was invented in Italy in the 1970s, while another account suggests it came from Chef Luigi Franzese at Orsini Restaurant in New York City. According to Strega, it gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s for two reasons: The ingredients were simple to find, and it could easily be whipped up on date night.

Though it became well-known more than 40 years ago, its reputation is growing even today. But what makes the sauce as popular as ever?

The 3 key aspects

According to Broadsheet, Chef Orazio D'Elia gained magnificent Instagram engagement after posting videos, including one of flames when he poured the vodka into the saucepan. Following his post, he was flooded with questions. "People would email me saying, 'Chef, how much vodka should I use?' and 'Chef, my vodka didn't flame'. People tagged me in videos of their freaking kitchens on fire, sending me photos of them with bandaids covering their burns," D' Elia said.

So, why exactly was the response to his recipe so outstanding? D'Elia believes, "One: people just love vodka (if you know me I only drink vodka, fresh lime and soda). Two: I think they love the gimmick of the fire when the vodka is poured into the sauce — it's very theatrical and makes the cooking fun. And three: its enduring appeal is that it's the perfect combination of spicy and cheesy, and, overall, it's absolutely delicious."

Speaking of vodka, does it really make a difference when it comes to the sauce? According to Paesana, the answer is yes, for two reasons. First, vodka can be used as a bonding agent for the water and fat, and second, it heightens aromas by acting as a solvent. This versatile sauce adds exceptional flavor wherever it's used. Whether it's paired with penne or topping grilled chicken, it doesn't seem like vodka sauce will be going away anytime soon. You can learn how to make your own dish with a penne alla vodka recipe.