This vegan penne alla vodka recipe is a lighter version of classic penne vodka that is just as delicious! The final result is a creamy, flavorful, and slightly spicy sauce that pairs perfectly with penne and your favorite add-ins.
What is penne alla vodka?
Classic penne alla vodka is a delicious pasta dish that combines tomato sauce with vodka, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese to create a creamy and flavorful pasta sauce. The secret behind the amazing flavor of the sauce is the vodka that reacts with the tomato sauce to make the most delicious pasta sauce!
But since traditional penne alla vodka can be quite heavy, I love to use this vegan penne alla vodka recipe that tastes just as delicious! Instead of using heavy cream, butter, and parmesan cheese, the vegan vodka sauce is made with my vegan cashew Alfredo sauce. It is the perfect substitute as it is creamy, cheesy, and super tasty!
The final result is a luxurious pasta sauce that is flavorful, creamy, slightly spicy, and simply delicious! Whether you are vegan or not, you are going to love this healthy penne alla vodka recipe!
To make vegan penne alla vodka, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Penne: Penne is the pasta shape that is most often used for penne alla vodka. But you can absolutely use any other kind of pasta! Other favorites of mine are shells, rotini, or orecchiette.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is perfect for making delicious and healthy pasta sauces!
- Aromatics: Garlic and red onion add tons of flavor to the sauce and make it taste extra delish! If you don’t have red onions on hand, you can substitute with yellow onions.
- Vodka sauce: For the vodka sauce, you’ll need vodka, tomato passata, homemade vegan cashew Alfredo sauce (it’s super easy to make!), and pasta water.
- Red pepper flakes: Red pepper flakes definitely are a must! They add some extra spice to this amazing pasta dish.
- Fresh basil leaves (optional): If you don’t have fresh basil leaves on hand, you can omit them. But I recommend adding fresh basil if you can. It definitely adds to the taste of this vegan penne alla vodka!
How to make vegan penne alla vodka
Preparing penne alla vodka is super simple! Just follow these steps:
- Prepare the vegan Alfredo sauce: You can check this vegan Alfredo sauce recipe for detailed instructions. But the recipe is super simple. All you do is boil cashews and blend them with some liquid, nutritional yeast, and spices.
- Cook the pasta: Next, cook the pasta until al dente. Then save some pasta water, drain, and set aside.
- Sauté the aromatics: While the pasta cooks, sauté the garlic and onion in a pan or pot over medium heat with some olive oil.
- Add the sauce ingredients: When the onion turns translucent, add the vodka. Then you can add the remaining sauce ingredients.
- Add spices: Add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Combine and garnish: Now transfer the pasta to the pan and toss until everything is combined. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!
The recipe is super simple, but keep the following things in mind when cooking.
- Heat level: Definitely adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you use to your taste. One teaspoon makes the dish spicy, so use less if you prefer a mild vodka sauce. I always recommend starting with less and adding more as needed.
- Consistency: The sauce should have the perfect consistency. But if it becomes too thick while simmering, you can thin it with a tiny amount of water.
- Gluten-free: And if you want to make this dish gluten-free, simply use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
Serving vegan penne alla vodka
Here is how I serve this pasta dish to turn it into a nutritious meal.
- Side salad: I often like to make a quick and easy side salad as the pasta dish itself doesn’t include a lot of veggies. One of my favorites is this arugula salad.
- Vegetables: Another delicious idea is adding vegetables to the sauce. My favorites are baby spinach and cherry tomatoes, but you can add any other vegetable you love!
- Chicken or shrimp: If you aren’t vegan and want to try this healthy penne alla vodka, you can add seared shrimp or chicken breast to this dish! It tastes great and is a simple addition.
Can you make vegan penne alla vodka without vodka?
If you don’t want to use vodka, you can definitely make this dish without it. But as vodka is the ingredient that gives the sauce its special taste, it won’t taste like actual penne alla vodka. I’d recommend using the vodka as it makes the sauce taste really great, but you can absolutely omit it and still enjoy a creamy and cheesy pasta sauce!
As for other substitutes, like white wine or water with lemon juice, I don’t recommend using them. They certainly won’t make the dish taste bad, but they don’t have the necessary amount of alcohol or components to give the sauce its distinct flavor. So feel free to add them if you want to, but they, unfortunately, won’t achieve the same result as vodka.
More delicious vegan recipes
I love to create healthy and delicious vegan recipes that are packed with veggies. These are some of my favorite recipes I’d recommend trying!
- Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo
- Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- Soba Noodle Salad
- Vegetable Lentil Soup
- Turkish Lentil Soup
Vegan Penne alla Vodka
- 10 ounces penne or any other type of pasta (can be gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ red onion finely diced
- 3 tablespoons vodka
- 2 cups tomato passata
- ½ cup vegan cashew Alfredo sauce
- ¼ cup pasta water
- ½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves (optional) chopped
- Prepare the vegan cashew Alfredo sauce according to recipe instructions.
- Cook the pasta according to instructions until al dente. Then save some pasta water, drain, and set aside.
- Preheat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion turns translucent.
- Next, add the vodka, passata, Alfredo sauce, and pasta water to the pan. Stir until the ingredients are combined.
- Now add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the pasta to the pan. Stir until the pasta is covered with sauce.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves (optional) and enjoy!