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Vodka sauce is an Italian sauce made from a relatively 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. It is a key ingredient in penne alla vodka, although it may well have been a sauce before its "invention" in the 1970s.
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 this is usually accomplished with wine.