Vodka sauce is an Italiansauce made from a smooth tomato sauce, vodka, typical Italian herbs and heavy cream, which gives the sauce its distinctive pink coloration. It gained popularity in the 1970s, when a variation won a national recipe contest in Italy, although it may well have been a sauce before its popularization in the 1970s. It is a key ingredient in penne alla vodka.
The vodka's function is, ostensibly, to release flavors in the tomato that are normally inaccessible; using alcoholic beverages for this purpose is common in Italian cooking, although usually accomplished with wine. It is also an emulsifier, serving to keep the sauce stable, when normally the oil of the cream sauce would react with the acidic tomato sauce to separate from the water in both.