Penne Alla Vodka (Vegan & Dairy Free)

Dairy free Penne Vodka – an easy and impressive creamy vegan pasta dish that you can make in less than 30 minutes using simple ingredients you might already have in your pantry. 

overhead shot of two bowls with dairy-free penne vodka sprinkled with parsley

Pasta tossed in a smooth, creamy sauce made with tomatoes, cashew cream, and a good old splash of vodka. Penne for your thoughts?

As you might have guessed by now, we are gonna dive headfirst into a steaming bowl of vegan penne alla vodka. That creamy and flavorful dairy-free sauce just can’t be beat! Luckily it’s super easy to make a truly superb, restaurant-style penne alla vodka at home. In less than 30 minutes you’ll have an amazing vegan pasta dinner on the table.

What is Penne Vodka?

It’s not exactly clear where Penne alla Vodka comes from. Some say it’s Italian, others say it’s Italian-American, and then there are those who claim it was invented by vodka manufacturers who tried to pass it off as Italian. All likely scenarios.

No matter how muddled the history, as long as the flavors are crystal clear there ain’t no trouble. Simultaneously rich with cream but with a sharp, bright flavor from the vodka. The kind of soul-hugging sauce that’s comforting in cold and rainy weather but also delicious during the warmer months that lie ahead.

overhead shot of two bowls of vegan dairy free penne pasta alla vodka

Pick the right pasta for your Vodka Sauce!

As we know, pasta is more than just a pretty face; it’s more a vehicle used to get that delightful sauce from your plate into your mouth, and each shape serves a specific purpose.

Tubular shapes like penne and ziti are perfect with all hearty, thick sauces like this dairy-free vodka sauce. Rigate, the ridged ones, capture even more sauce and could be used as well.

close-up of a bowl of vegan penne vodka sprinkled with parsley

Is vodka necessary and is there a substitution for it?

Vodka is an important ingredient here as it does alter the flavor of the sauce in a pleasing way. It adds a touch of heat and a bit of a sharp bite that helps balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the richness of the cashew cream. Is it absolutely necessary? No, but vodka sauce just wouldn’t be vodka sauce without it. It would be a lovely dairy-free tomato sauce.

Should you be worried about the alcohol content, rest assured that it simmers for long enough for the alcohol to boil off so there’s no danger of getting intoxicated from eating your lovely vegan pasta!

overhead shot of a bowl of vegan dairy free penne vodka in a white bowl

A word on canned tomatoes:

Vegan Penne alla vodka is one of those simple recipes that have minimal ingredients so we want to go for high-quality.

However,  in this case, there’s nothing wrong with canned tomatoes! They are typically picked and packaged at their peak ripeness, providing you with full flavor. What I love about canned tomatoes is that they’re already blanched and peeled. Read labels carefully to get the can of tomatoes that is just right for you; unseasoned, salt-free. It doesn’t matter whether they are whole, diced, crushed, or chopped – we are blitzing them in the blender either way.

I use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe. They’re a type of Italian plum tomato and I find that they have the best flavor when it comes to canned tomato. It’s definitely worth the extra money. If you can’t find canned San Marzano tomatoes, use any Italian-style whole canned tomatoes instead.

How to make Vegan Penne Vodka:

Prep: 

  • Place the cashews in a large bowl, cover with water, place in the fridge, and soak overnight. If you forgot to do that, you can also boil the cashews for 10 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to instructions.

picture collage demonstrating how to blend tomatoes and fry garlic for making dairy free vodka sauce recipe

How to make Vegan Penne Vodka Sauce:

Step 1 & 2  – While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Place the tomatoes (including the juice) in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.

Step 3 – Heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant.

vodka, cashew cream and penne pasta being added to dairy free creamy vodka sauce in a silver pot

Step 4 – Stir in blended tomatoes and vodka. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 5 – While the sauce is cooking, prepare the cashew cream. Drain cashews, add to your blender with vegetable stock, and process cashews until perfectly smooth, scraping the sides of the blender as needed. Turn off the heat under the tomato sauce and stir in cashew cream.

Step 6 – When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, and transfer to the sauce skillet. Stir thoroughly until all the pasta is covered with sauce. Taste, add some salt if needed. Serve with ground pepper, chopped parsley, and enjoy!

 

overhead close-up of vegan penne vodka sprinkled with parsley

Can this be frozen as meal prep?

The dairy free penne vodka sauce will freeze perfectly or will stay good in the fridge for up to a week. Cook and store your pasta separately, and only cook what you’ll be eating in one sitting. If you choose to freeze the pasta sauce be sure to run it through the blender really quick after you defrost it to eliminate any lumps.

two servings of dairy free penne alla vodka served in pasta bowls

Tips for making this recipe:

  • If you’ve got leftovers, just make sure you stir in an additional 2 teaspoons vodka per cup of sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes before serving again.
  • Use gluten-free pasta to keep this pasta dish gluten-free.
  • A sprinkle of fresh parsley adds great flavor and color, but fresh basil would also be a great choice.
  • Want to add some heat? Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • If you’re not vegan and want to add some protein, it’s easy to add some pre-cooked chicken to this dish.
  • The recipe can also be doubled (or even tripled) if you have a big enough pot.
overhead shot of vegan penne alla vodka
5 from 4 votes
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Vegan & Dairy-free Penne Vodka

Dairy free Penne Vodka - an easy and impressive  vegan pasta dish using cashew cream that you can make in less than 30 minutes using simple ingredients you might already have in your pantry. 

Course dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword best vodka sauce recipe, dairy free penne vodka, vegan penne alla vodka
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Author Marie

Ingredients

  • 16 oz penne pasta 500 grams (or another small shape pasta) - use gluten free pasta to keep this dish gluten free.
  • 1 can whole Italian tomatoes (San Marzano for instance) can 18 oz - 800 grams
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews - soaked overnight
  • 2/3 cup vegetable stock
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped parsley to serve

Instructions

  1. Place cashews in a large bowl, cover with water, place in the fridge, and soak overnight. If you forgot to do that, you can also boil the cashews for 10 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to instructions.
  3. While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Place the tomatoes (including the juice) in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  4. Heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant.
  5. Stir in blended tomatoes and vodka. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the cashew cream. Drain cashews, add to your blender with vegetable stock, and process cashews until perfectly smooth, scraping the sides of the blender as needed.
  7. Turn off the heat under the tomato sauce and stir in cashew cream.
  8. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and transfer to the sauce skillet. Stir thoroughly until all the pasta is covered with sauce. Taste, add some salt if needed. Serve with ground pepper, chopped parsley, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • If you've got leftovers, just make sure you stir in an additional 2 teaspoons vodka per cup of sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes before serving again.
  • Use gluten-free pasta to keep this pasta dish gluten-free.
  • A sprinkle of fresh parsley adds great flavor and color, but fresh basil would also be a great choice.
  • Want to add some heat? Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. 
  • If you're not vegan and want to add some protein, it's easy to add some pre-cooked chicken to this dish. 
  • The recipe can also be doubled (or even tripled) if you have a big enough pot.

If you tried this recipe for dairy free penne vodka, don’t forget to rate the recipe below and let me know how it went in the comments – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!

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posted in
All Seasons Recipes Clean Eating Dairy Free Gluten free Main Dishes Meal Prep Pasta Quick & Easy Meals Recipes Sauces Vegan Vegetarian
10 Comments
  1. This looks amazing. Cashews are such a great sub for making things creamy without milk. Thanks!

  2. Beautiful recipe with simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions. Let’s be honest, you had me at vodka 😉 Thanks for another great recipe!

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