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overhead view of pasta in a bowl.

Vegan Penne Alla Vodka

This Vegan Penne Alla Vodka is an easy weeknight meal to prepare and will quickly become a family favorite. It's rich, creamy and so satisfying! 
Course Dinner, Entree
Cuisine Italian, Vegan
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 People
Calories 593kcal


  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¾ cup water + more for soaking cashews
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter (or blend of both)
  • 1 medium/large shallot , minced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic , minced
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes (*optional)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup vodka (nice quality)
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes , fire-roasted (sub regular)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt , more to taste (+ more for pasta water)
  • Fresh cracked pepper , to taste

For Serving (optional)


  • Heat up a large pot of salted water over high heat until it's almost boiling. Then cover and lower the heat to keep it hot until ready to use.
  • To soften the cashews, boil water in a small pot and remove from heat. Add cashews and cover for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the cashews and discard soaking water. Place them in a blender with ¾ cup of water and a pinch of salt. Blend on high until very smooth. Set aside (you can skip this step if you have a powerful blender such as a Vitamix).
  • Heat up a large pan or pot over medium heat. When heated, add the olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add garlic, crushed red pepper, and oregano. Sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add vodka and cook until it's reduced by half. About 1-2 minutes. (*Use caution near open flame*)
  • Now add the tomatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat slightly and gently simmer for 12-15 minutes until liquid reduces and sauce thickens. Stir often.
  • While the sauce is cooking, bring the pasta water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just shy of al dente (usually 8-9 minutes). Reserve ½ cup of pasta water (you may not need it). Drain and set aside.
  • When the sauce is thickened, pour the cashew cream into the pan of sauce and stir to combine well. Gently simmer for 1-2 minutes to combine and thicken. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
  • Now add the pasta to the pan and gently toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, you can add pasta water as needed to thin it out. Cook for 1-2 more minutes to heat throughout then remove from heat. Top with basil and vegan parmesan and serve with more if desired.


  • Timing: I like to start cooking the pasta about 5 minutes after the sauce has started. I keep the pot of water heated so it boils quickly when I'm ready. I do this so the pasta isn't sitting too long, and it will be hot and fresh when it goes into the sauce. If you want to cook it before the sauce, I would toss it with olive oil to prevent sticking. 
  • Cashews: To prep ahead, pre-soften your cashews by placing them in cool water for 2-4 hours (or overnight in the fridge). Then they'll be ready to pop in the blender right away.
  • If you don't have a high-speed blender, the cashews might not completely break down and this could result in a gritty texture. You can try soaking the cashews longer for 6 hours or more.
  • Instead of cashew cream, you can also use ¾ cup lite canned coconut milk. You may need to cook the sauce a few minutes longer to thicken. 
  • Sauce: the amount coats 12 ounces of penne very well and it's really saucy. However, you can stretch it to 16 ounces of pasta. 


Calories: 593kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 567mg