Vegan Penne alla Vodka
Published Jan 24, 2024
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This vegan Penne alla Vodka is a lightened up version of an Italian classic that’s made dairy-free with coconut cream. It’s rich, creamy and makes for the perfect 30-minute meal that the whole family will love!
I love my pasta! More specifically I love pasta with creamy sauces like vodka sauce. That said, I don’t usually eat a ton of dairy, so I wanted to take a stab at creating a vegan penne alla vodka!
After a few tries I think I perfected this recipe! It’s rich and creamy thanks to the coconut cream, but it still has that distinct vodka sauce flavor that I love! And trust me, you cant even taste the coconut in this sauce. It pairs well with the acidity from the tomatoes. This dish is not only delicious, but it comes together in about 30 minutes making it the perfect recipe for busy weeknights or an easy homemade date night meal. I can’t wait for you to try it!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- 30-minute meal – This dish comes together in about 30 minutes with simple ingredients, making it ideal for busy weeknights.
- Dairy-free – Classic vodka sauce is usually made with heavy cream or some sort of dairy, but this recipe is made with coconut cream instead.
- Flavorful – The mix of garlic, onions, herbs, vodka and tomatoes creates a rich, savory taste.
- Flexible – You can easily modify this recipe to fit your diet. Want to use gluten-free pasta? Go for it! Want to add protein? That’d be delicious!
You only need a handful of ingredients to whip up this flavorful pasta dish! Here’s all you need:
- dry penne pasta – the star of the show! We’re using a full one pound box of penne for this dish. Even though this dish is called penne alla vodka, feel free to use your favorite type of noodle. I would just recommend using a pasta shape that holds sauce well like ziti, rigatoni, orecchiette or bowtie pasta. If you need this dish to be gluten-free swap the regular penne pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- olive oil – for sautéing the garlic and onions.
- onion and garlic – two essentials that add a ton of flavor to the sauce.
- crushed tomatoes – forms the tomato base of the vodka sauce. I recommend grabbing no salt added tomatoes so you can control the amount of sodium in the sauce.
- vodka – a key ingredient in the sauce, contributing to its unique flavor. If you don’t have vodka on hand you can use vermouth instead.
- red pepper flakes – for a hint of heat, adding a subtle kick to the sauce. Feel free to skip this if you’re not a fan of spice or if you’re serving this to kiddos.
- salt and pepper – basic seasonings to enhance the overall flavor.
- coconut cream – gives the sauce its creamy, rich texture while keeping it dairy-free. If you don’t need this dish to be vegan you can use heavy cream instead.
- fresh basil – chopped, adding a fresh, herby brightness to the dish.
- vegan parmesan – to sprinkle on top, adding a cheesy, nutty finish without the dairy. I recommend Follow Your Heart Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese or you can make my vegan hemp parmesan instead. If you don’t need this dish to be vegan you can use regular shredded parmesan.
How to Make Vegan Penne alla Vodka
Step 1: Cook the penne pasta according to the package instructions until al dente, then drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking heat the olive oil in a skillet, then sauté garlic and onions until translucent and fragrant.
Step 2: Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, then simmer for a few minutes. Pour in the vodka, and continue to simmer on low for 15-20 minutes to let the sauce reduce and thicken.
Step 3: Once the sauce has reduced, stir in the coconut cream. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, mixing well so all the pasta is coated in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and dairy-free parmesan before serving. Enjoy!
- For the best results cook the pasta until just al dente, so it still has a nice chewiness to it and isn’t mushy.
- Allow the sauce to simmer sufficiently after adding the vodka. Not only does it ensure that the alcohol cooks off, but it also allows the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken and reduce.
What to Serve With This Penne alla Vodka
This pasta dish is hearty and filling on its own, but it pairs wonderfully with a variety of sides to make a well-rounded meal. Here are some suggestions:
- Salad: A simple green salad can add a refreshing contrast to the rich pasta. Serve it with this kale caesar salad or simple spinach salad.
- Vegetables: Keep it healthy and simple with a side of roasted broccoli, roasted asparagus or these air fryer vegetables.
- Garlic bread: You can never go wrong with serving garlic bread alongside pasta!
- Protein: I’m big on adding protein to all my dishes, so I would probably serve this pasta dish with some protein like this air fryer chicken breast or turkey meatballs. You could also add ground turkey or ground beef to the sauce to turn it into a meat vodka sauce if you want. For a vegan option you could make these lentil meatballs.
- In the refrigerator: Transfer the cooled pasta to an airtight container and store in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- In the freezer: I wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish with the pasta, but if you want to make a big batch of vodka sauce for a later use you can easily freeze that. Just allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, place it in the fridge overnight, then reheat over the stovetop and serve over freshly cooked pasta.
- Reheating: When you’re ready to enjoy the pasta again, reheat it in a skillet over the stovetop. If it seems dry, add a splash of water or plant-based milk to bring back the creaminess of the sauce. Alternatively, you can add the pasta to a bowl with a splash of water and microwave it until warm throughout.
More Pasta Dishes You’ll Love
- Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Tahini Sauce
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- One Pot Pasta
- Turkey Bolognese
- Creamy Cottage Cheese Pasta
Be sure to check out the full collection of dinner recipes on EBF!
Vegan Penne alla Vodka
- 1 lb dry penne pasta
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup vodka
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅔ cup canned coconut cream
- ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
- ¼ cup vegan shredded parmesan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for 6-7 minutes or until onions are translucent, fragrant and start to caramelize.
- Carefully add crushed tomatoes into the skillet. Bring to a simmer and add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes then pour in the vodka. Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, uncovered to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.
- Stir in the coconut cream.
- At this point you can add the drained pasta back to the pot and pour in the sauce to combine. Or you can plate the pasta and add sauce on top.
- Sprinkle fresh basil and parmesan over the pasta and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional parmesan and basil if you like.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.