Vegan Penne alla Vodka (Vodka Sauce)

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This Vegan Penne alla Vodka is the ultimate date night pasta coated in a boozy tomato & cashew cream sauce! Gluten-Free Option.

There’s nothing like a creamy plate of pasta, and Penne alla Vodka is one of my favorites! Somewhat like a cross between tomato sauce and alfredo sauce, penne alla vodka combines cream, tomatoes, and a spicy kick of boozy flavor from, you guessed it…vodka! 😉

Penna alla vodka in bowl topped with oregano

INGREDIENTS + INSPIRATION

Penne alla Vodka is Italian for “Penne with Vodka Sauce.” There is some debate whether vodka sauce has purely Italian or Italian-American origins, but it does have classic Italian cooking steps! Vodka sauce gained popularity in the ’80s and ’90s as a dish cooked by young men to impress their dates. The original recipe is a thin and smooth pink sauce that’s often finished with some heavy cream. Today we’ll be making a vegan version with a few simple plant-based swaps! 🙂

ingredients for penne alla vodka in small bowls on marble background

Blended cashews act as a sub for heavy cream and cut the acidity of the tomato sauce. I like to use canned whole tomatoes and hand-crush them for the best saucy flavor, but see the recipe notes for how you can make this with tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes too!

HOW TO MAKE VEGAN PENNE ALLA VODKA

step-by-step photo collage for how to make penne alla vodka

This Vegan Penne alla Vodka is the perfect date night dish to impress, made in just a few easy steps! Simply simmer and blend everything for your vegan vodka sauce, then cook your pasta, and combine everything to make the most delicious creamy vegan pasta dish, possibly ever. 😉

  1. Drain and crush the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Add the liquid back, then set aside.
  2. Sauté the onion until translucent, then add garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and continue to sauté.
  3. Deglaze the pan with vodka, add the tomato mixture and salt, then simmer.
  4. Boil water and cook your pasta. Drain, but don’t rinse.
  5. Blend the tomato mixture with cashews and water until smooth, then return to the pan and simmer. Add butter for extra creaminess, optional.
  6. Add the pasta to the pan and toss. Top with vegan parmesan and oregano, and enjoy!

This bright & boozy pasta is also completely customizable to your liking – keep it traditional and serve with penne, or switch things up and use a different pasta shape! Rigatoni or even rotini would be great with this. 🙂 You can also add in a few of your favorite veggies like zucchini or mushrooms. I like to top mine with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh oregano. You could also opt for fresh basil or fresh parsley, depending on what you prefer! Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’s best to keep sauce and pasta separate to keep the pasta from getting soggy; you can also opt to cook your pasta only just before serving.

penna alla vodka in large pot topped with oregano

COOKING TIPS + FAQ:

  • Can I make the sauce ahead of time? Yes, feel free to make it up to 2 days ahead of time and store in an airtight jar in the fridge.
  • Can I make this gluten-free? Yes! The sauce is already gluten-free and you can use gluten-free pasta instead of regular. 🙂
  • Pro-tip for the tastiest pasta: Generously salt your pasta water to bring out the best flavors.

penna alla vodka in large pot topped with oregano

If you’re looking for more tasty pasta recipes to impress, you’ll also love this Garlic Cream Sauce with Pasta, these BEST Ever Vegan Stuffed Shells, and this One Pot Mushroom Stroganoff!

Finally, if you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I love seeing your delicious recreations 🙂

Print

Vegan Penne alla Vodka

This Vegan Penne alla Vodka is the ultimate date night pasta coated in a boozy tomato & cashew cream sauce! Gluten-Free Option.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 28-ounce (790 g) can whole peeled plum tomatoes in sauce*
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) good quality olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup (235 ml) vodka*
  • 1 pound (450 g) dried penne; gluten-free if necessary
  • 3/4 cup (105 g) raw cashews, soaked* 
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, plus more as necessary
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter (optional, for a silkier sauce)
  • Serving suggestions: vegan Parmesan, fresh oregano

Instructions

  1. Prep: Drain the tomatoes over a small bowl or measuring cup, reserving the sauce. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes into the small bowl, then set aside. You can also use a potato masher and mash the tomatoes directly in the bowl. Add the remaining sauce from the can to the same bowl with the tomatoes.
  2. Aromatics: Warm the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent and slightly golden. Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté for an additional minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Deglaze: Deglaze the pan with vodka (Note: if cooking over gas, remove the pan from the flame and carefully pour in to prevent fire) and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pan and stir well. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook the Pasta: Bring the a large pot of salted water to a boil while the sauce simmers. Cook the penne until al dente according to the package directions. Drain, but do not rinse.
  5. Blend: Transfer the tomato mixture to the blender along with the cashews and water. Blend on high for 60 seconds to form a smooth and silky sauce (See notes for a chunkier version). Return the blended sauce to the sauté pan and simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and stir in the extra tablespoon of butter for an extra creamy sauce.
  6. Serve: Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss until evenly coated. Serve warm, topped with vegan parmesan and fresh oregano, or as desired. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • Tomatoes: A 28-ounce can of tomatoes makes about 3 cups of “sauce”; if you don’t want to crush your tomatoes by hand, you can also sub it with crushed tomatoes or 3 cups of your favorite marinara! This recipe would also work well with fresh tomatoes – just peel them first, and process in a food processor until chunky.
  • Vodka: This recipe is called vodka sauce for a reason, so it won’t be the same if you leave it out. If you don’t cook with alcohol, my best recommendation would be to use an alcohol-free vodka alternative, like Strykk or Clean Co.
  • Cashews: you can soak your cashews in water overnight in the fridge, or cover with boiling water and let sit for at least 30 minutes before using. If you do not want to use cashews, 3/4 cup of coconut cream or a vegan creamer would be a great substitute! If you use either of these options, omit the extra 1/2 cup of water.
  • Chunky Sauce: if you’d prefer to have some tomato and onion pieces in the sauce, (1) blend the cashews with the water alone in the blender and pour it in like cream for a super chunky sauce, or (2) blend the cashews and water with 1/2-3/4 of the sauce for a more subtle texture.

Keywords: vegan vodka sauce, vegan vodka pasta, vegan penne alla vodka, dairy free vodka pasta

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About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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Comments

  1. I had used a recipe like this years ago and couldn’t for the life of me find it, and I have been desperately searching for a penne alla vodka recipe that was as good. This is even better than I could have imagined. It’s so delicious, the cashew cream ties it together so well. It filled the penne alla vodka void in my heart, and is now a staple in my recipes!

  2. Omg so good! I made this for dinner along with some homemade garlic bread- chef’s kiss! My omnivore boyfriend said he could eat 4 more bowls. Thank you for the deliciousness!

  3. I made this as my birthday dinner a few days ago….it was SO good. Even my boyfriend who “doesn’t love pasta” said we should make it again soon. Love it, thanks Caitlin!

  4. Turned out amazing. Follow the recipe and it will be a crowd pleaser! I am making garlic bread with it next time. Thank you Caitlin 🙂

      1. Oh man, it has been way too long since I’ve had penne alla vodka! When I saw it on your Instagram my mouth started watering! I had to make it right away. It’s so good, even my omni husband couldn’t get enough of it. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!