03 February 2010

roasted tomato vodka sauce with prunes

tomato sauce

Please, don't be deterred by the addition of prunes. My idea for this sauce came from another Italian recipe for a pork loin stuffed with prunes that I really like. The sweetness of the prunes enhances and contrasts against the savory flavors to create a depth of flavor, and it was my inspiration for this vodka sauce.

Since the tomatoes, onions, and garlic are roasted, the sauce is practically already cooked once everything gets into the skillet. This isn't necessarily a quick sauce, but you could put it together in about an hour if the water for the pasta is being heated as you prep the sauce.

Besides the vodka, which probably acts just like any alcohol added to pasta sauce minus the flavor (I'm guessing), vodka sauce has cream in it. So you're thinking this might be unhealthy? Not here. Although I do use heavy whipping cream, which I feel contributes and enhances to the smoothness of the sauce (yeah, it was also what I had), you could use half and half, general cream, or even whole. I wouldn't suggest 1%, no matter how fat you're feeling, because it might make the sauce too watery. There's also only 1/4 cup of cream in here, probably coming out to about less than a tablespoon per serving (this at least has about 5 servings).


The flavor came out about how I was expecting, savory with sweet undertones. I don't generally prefer sweet sauces, but I like the subtle taste of the prunes in here. Another "secret" addition was two anchovy fillets, and again, don't be put off as you can't even taste them, it's just one of those special additions that greatly contributes to the flavor. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the outcome!

Recipe after the jump

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roasted tomato vodka sauce with prunes
Recipe by Christina Provo

ingredients ~

1 pound Roma tomatoes, sliced into eighths
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small onions, sliced
10 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cup prunes, coarsely chopped
2 flat fillet Anchovies
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pound spaghetti

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 450° degrees. In a large pot, heat water with 1 tablespoon coarse salt for spaghetti to a boil.

  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, place tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, onions, garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon basil, and white pepper. Stir to coat. Place on middle rack in oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway.

  3. In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil on medium heat. Stir in prunes and anchovies, using the back of stirring utensil to break the anchovies up. Saute for about 1 minute.

  4. When tomato mixture has finished roasting, spoon into bowl of food processor along with the prune-anchovy mixture, leaving excess oil in skillet. Process with 3/4 cup water until smooth, no longer than 30 seconds. In same skillet, saute tomato paste, letting it caramelize a bit, for a minute; pour in pureed tomato mixture and stir to incorporate with tomato paste. Add vodka, stir, and reduce heat to maintain a rapid simmer.

  5. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente. Halfway through cooking time, take 3/4 cup pasta water and add to tomato sauce; stir, then stir in heavy whipping cream. Check for seasonings.

  6. Once pasta has finished cooking, drain portion out into bowls. Stir parsley into pasta sauce and remove from heat. Serve atop spaghetti.



  1. I love this dish, mainly because roasted peppers are the star but it's also an easy dish. Little fuss needed.

  2. Very Simple...Looks delicious! I'll have to give this a try.

  3. Do you ever use a hand blender in your cooking? I do and have found it saves time by reducing the number of things needing to be cleaned afterwards.


  4. Peter ~ Thanks. I definitely liked that I didn't need to cook the sauce for very long once the tomatoes were roasted.

    Bo ~ Cool, let me know what you think!

    Jogger ~ It's on my list of things to buy that I probably never will. =(

  5. I stumbled onto this site searching for recipes that would utilize some roasted Sungold tomatoes that I needed to use. The odd ingredients sucked me in. Prunes were the only item that I lacked, but could be obtained from the corner drugstore without much effort.

    This recipe was slightly too sweet for me, most likely because I had Sungold tomatoes rather than Roma. I will have to try it again as directed. However, I wanted to share this tip. While I do not care a whit about fat content, the SO is lactose intolerant. Therefore, I subbed out the whipping cream with cashew cream.

    It was a healthier option without compromising anything in texture. It also put me one ingredient away from a vegetarian dish. I agree that the anchovy offers a touch of complexity, but omitting it will provide you with a vegan option.

    This is my first taste of prunes and I may prefer subbing them with blanched raisins in the future. I prefer the taste of raisins and always have them in the cupboard. This recipe is a relatively effortless and healthy meal for those looking to add to their pasta repertoire.

    1. Thank you for letting me know your thoughts! I'm glad you enjoyed it overall.

      The sweetness in the sauce is more likely to be from the prunes and not the type of tomatoes you prefer; while one variety of tomatoes may be sweeter than the other, the sweetness from the prunes are more prominent.

      I'm pleased to know that cashew cream makes an excellent substitute for the whipping cream. I've only ever experimented with Lactaid as a lactose-free substitute, but it's not as thick as whipping cream and doesn't always make for a good sub.

      Let me know how you like it with raisins! I think dried cherries would work, too.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your thoughts are appreciated! ^,^


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