As Italians, we can’t go a week without some sort of pasta and sauce. We don’t make the rules! But we do make an easy and delicious penne alla vodka! Phew. It’s a tricky task trying to find vegan Italian food, so we developed a super simple recipe that we can make at the drop of a hat. Did someone drop a sombrero? Moving on. The recipe calls for only 4 ingredients – it’s very straightforward. This easy vegan penne alla vodka has become a weekly staple in our home. From our home to yours, let’s get into it.
The Origins of Vodka Sauce
No, the sauce won’t get you drunk – sorry to disappoint. But it will cause you to shovel spoonfuls of creamy penne into your mouth while yelling “MMMM.” Just us?
The origin of vodka sauce is up for debate. Some say it was created by a chef in New York City and others say it was the motherland, Italia! We’d rather give this one to Italy. The dish gained popularity because the ingredients were common and affordable and in the 80s, young men starting making it to impress their dates. Can someone tell that to Kyle on Hinge!
What is Vodka Sauce?
It’s a tomato-based sauce that gets a bit of tang from adding vodka. The sauce is simmered and the alcohol is cooked off in the process, leaving behind a tantalizing aroma that enhances every bite. Your sense of smell is actually responsible for 75 to 95 percent of what we “taste.” Crazy, right!
The vodka also aids in keeping the sauce creamy and smooth, binding all the ingredients together. Normally, the sauce gets its beautiful pink color from adding heavy cream but in our version we add coconut cream to achieve the same effect. The coconut cream gives the sauce a velvety texture and adds richness. A decadent sauce that’s simple to make – how could life get any better??
Ingredients for Vegan Penne alla Vodka Sauce
Our vegan penne alla vodka recipe calls for only four ingredients, yes you heard that right! The sauce is so easy, it’s almost stupido to have a recipe for it. ALMOST! Here is what you’ll need:
- Your favorite jar of tomato sauce (hopefully our Grandma Rose isn’t reading this)
- Coconut cream
- Penne pasta
Okay, hear us out. Jarred tomato sauce has really stepped up its game (there are still some awful ones out there though, so beware). Our favorite brand is Rao’s. It tastes like your Sicilian Nonna just spent several hours simmering down a fresh pot of authentic Italian red sauce. We see nothing wrong with that! Buy it on sale or tell your Dad to buy it in bulk at Costco (he’ll know what to do).
Next up is the coconut cream, we love using the Whole Food’s brand. Not all coconut creams are created equal, so make sure you’re using a high quality one. For the vodka, anything goes but we typically reach for Tito’s. Lastly, the penne. It holds the sauce really well, which is why it is the pasta of choice. Trader Joe himself comes through with his cheap and delicious penne rigate. It’s perfectly chewy! Rigatoni works too but then you’ll have to change the name.
Tips for the Perfect Penne alla Vodka
Follow these three key tips for the easy vegan penne alla vodka of your dreams!
- Cook your pasta al dente – which literally translates as “to the tooth.” Basically, it should be slightly undercooked. Especially in this dish where it simmers again with the sauce. No one wants mushy pasta unless you’re out of your mind!
- Immersion blend your sauce – we want the CREAMIEST, SMOOTHEST sauce we can get and that means using an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also use a regular blender.
- Use the solid part of coconut cream – most coconut creams have a little bit of liquid in the can so just scoop out the top solid part to add to the sauce. This keeps the sauce thick and extra creamy. You can save the liquid portion and use it in soups, smoothies, or other sauces.
Alright, it’s time for you to channel your inner Nonna and get to it (watch us channeling our inner Nonna in this recipe video). We guarantee this will become a staple recipe in your home. Our easy vegan penne alla vodka is rich and robust – no one will ever guess how simple it is! Ottimo!Print
Easy Vegan Penne Alla Vodka
- Total Time: 15 minutes
It’s creamy, hearty, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch the velvety sauce simmer. The classic pink sauce has so much richness and flavor, you won’t believe how simple it is. Easy vegan penne alla vodka is the perfect recipe to have on hand when you’re in the mood for a quick Italian pasta fix!
- 1 lb of penne pasta
- 1 – 28 oz jar of tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup coconut cream solids
- 1/3 cup vodka
- fresh parsley
- vegan parmesan (we love this brand!)
- cracked black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions for al dente.
- If you have an immersion blender, skip to step three. If not, pour your jarred sauce in a blender and blend until smooth.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, heat your sauce on medium low.
- Once the sauce starts to lightly simmer, add in the coconut cream.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until creamy and smooth.
- Add the vodka to the sauce and let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, uncovered.
- Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce. On very low heat, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Serve with desired toppings!
- Use any shaped pasta you’d like. Rigatoni and penne tend to hold the sauce best.
- Add your favorite leafy greens, like spinach or kale, during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Add cooked plant-based protein like vegan sausage or meatballs.
- Cook Time: 15 min
For more deliciousness, check out our other plant-based dinner recipes!