Baked spaghetti with vodka sauce is a fantastic meal to serve when you’re feeding a crowd. A creamy vodka sauce baked with thick bucatini pasta comes together for an easy comfort meal that you can prepare in twenty minutes.
Everyone needs a recipe that you can put together quickly, in advance, that will feed a crowd. Of course it also needs to be out of this world delicious. This baked spaghetti with vodka recipe is going to be your new best friend.
I’ve made it several times for those nights when I either don’t have time to cook or I want to be able to just put dinner in the oven and talk with family or friends.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a good friend was coming through but was only going to be around on Tuesday night, but I had to work on Tuesday, so I made pasta with vodka sauce on Sunday evening and put it in the refrigerator before baking. Then on Tuesday night, I put it in the oven when I got home from work and dinner was ready.
This makes enough to feed twelve, so I put some of it in individual ramekins for later. You can half the recipe if you’re not serving twelve, but I suggest making the entire batch and dividing it into smaller baking dishes and freeze some for later.
This recipe is similar to Baked Pasta alla Vodka but with a few shortcuts that will save you a lot of time and you won’t give up too much flavor. If you want to a lighter baked pasta dish, try chicken spaghetti which is made with a broth based sauce, but still plenty of cheese.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Spaghetti casserole is the best
- This creamy pasta dish comes together in 20 minutes
- You can easily feed a crowd
- You can prep it in advance and just pop it in the oven
Why use a vodka sauce
While I can’t explain exactly why or how, but adding vodka to a tomato sauce helps release the acids from the tomatoes and brings out their flavor. It also adds a distinct taste to the sauce.
Vodka sauce also has some cream in which helps with the acidity from the tomatoes.
The alcohol will not cook out completely, you would have to cook it for three hours for all of the alcohol to evaporate. If that is an issue for you, then you’ll need to use a different type of sauce. It won’t have the unique flavor of a vodka sauce, but the dish will still be delicious if you use a marinara sauce.
What you’ll need
- Italian sausage– half sweet and half spicy for lots of flavor and a little heat.
- Fresh basil – this will add so much flavor
- Prepared vodka cream sauce – like Rao’s or if you have an Italian market get theirs
- Ricotta cheese – you can find this in the milk and cheese section of the grocery or if you have an Italian market ask if they will sell you some. Ours use ricotta for their desserts but will sell it to me if I ask for it.
- Parmesan cheese – for the flavor
- Mozzarella cheese – to make it cheesy
- Bucatini – this thicker pasta is great when it’s coated with this sauce
- Pantry staples – onion, garlic
If you have an Italian market close by then stop there to get all your ingredients. There is nothing better than the ricotta and sausage that I get at our Italian market, Giacomo’s. They also carry fresh pasta and an amazing vodka cream sauce.
If you’re not so fortunate, just get the best quality you can find, I normally go to Fresh Market if the Italian market is closed. Rao’s is the brand of vodka sauce that I like which you can find at most groceries.
How do you make Baked Spaghetti with Vodka Sauce
Brown the sausage then add onion and cook until soft. Next add garlic, fresh basil and prepared vodka cream sauce and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook the pasta al dente and place in a large bowl with half of the ricotta and parmesan cheese.
Combine so that it melts and coats the pasta then add the cooked sausage mixture along with the rest of the ricotta and parmesan and mix all together. Top with mozzarella.
Bake immediately or refrigerate until ready to bake. It will save for 2-3 days in the refrigerator or you can cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze it. Let it come to room temperature before baking.
What to serve with baked spaghetti
Serve with this quick and easy pull apart bread and a strawberry spinach salad.
If you have a little more time, make your own vodka cream sauce, it’s very easy but it will need to simmer for about forty minutes.
What type of pasta should you use
For this dish, I like using bucatini pasta which is a thick spaghetti like pasta. By using spaghetti instead of penne which is a tubular pasta, you can cut the baked spaghetti into squares for serving. Since this is a thicker noodle it absorbs the creamy sauce really well.
If I can’t get fresh pasta, I like this imported bucatini. Make sure you cook the pasta al dente since it is going to bake for 45 minutes. For a guide on all pasta shapes, check here.
This is a wonderful dish to eat for leftovers. I think the flavors get better as it sits overnight and since it freezes so well, I always make a large batch and freeze half for another meal.
FAQs and tips
In Italian, al dente means “to the tooth”. This is a way of saying that the pasta has some chewiness or bite to it because it’s not fully cooked or mushy. When you are going to cook your pasta and then bake it further, you want to be sure that it’s not over boiled and mushy before it’s combined with the sauce and remaining ingredients.
Vodka sauce can be prepared many different ways but the base of them all start with a smooth tomato sauce, vodka and a heavy cream that are all simmered together. The vodka adds a unique flavor to the sauce.
No, they are similar but not the same. Bucatini is shaped like a long, narrow tube that has a hollow interior. Spaghetti is long and tubular but doesn’t have a hollow interior and is thinner.
No, the vodka that is added to the sauce is simmered and some of it cooks off as the flavors meld together. While some remains, you will not get tipsy.
Cover it with aluminum foil and bake at 350º for 10-15 minutes until it is heated through.
This spaghetti dish freezes very well. You can freeze it before or after it has baked.
More pasta dishes to try
More make ahead recipes you’ll love
- Brisket with Mac & Cheese if you need some comfort food
- A pot of Short Rib Chili will freeze well and is great for Game Day
- Coq au Vin in the slow cooker, is great to come home to
Baked Spaghetti with Vodka Sauce
- 1 lb sweet Italian Sausage
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
- 16 ounces prepared vodka cream sauce 2 cups
- 1 lb bucatini pasta
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese 1 ½ cups
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese grated
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- Heat a large skillet over high. Remove casings from sausages and add to the pan breaking apart as they cook. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onions and salt and pepper and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add fresh basil and garlic and cook an additional minute. Add prepared vodka sauce and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the sausage is cooking, cook pasta in salted water until it is al dente. Drain.
- In a large bowl, combine half of the ricotta and half of the parmesan along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the hot pasta and toss to coat. Add the sausage mixture and mix well. Ad the remaining ricotta and parmesan and mix. Pour into a very large baking dish or 2 smaller ones and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes.
- Can be refrigerated before baking for 2-3 days. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature before baking.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- This can be refrigerated before baking, just bring to room temperature before placing in the oven.
- You can half the recipe
- You can freeze this prior to baking or after it has baked. Just let it come to room temperature before baking.
- You can substitute any shaped pasta for the bucatini.
- You can substitute marinara sauce for the vodka sauce.
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