Vegan Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka was one of the first recipes I ever made in my first apartment, around 5 years ago. Mind you, I wasn’t vegan at the time so I didn’t know about the wonders of cashew cream. But now I do and here we are.

This dish is simple, creamy, hearty, and delicious – what more could you want?

So why vodka?

“Along with the penne pasta, this dish generally contains cream sauce mixed with marinara sauce or tomato paste, which are a combination unusual in Italian cooking because the acidity of the tomatoes tends to make the oil in the cream separate. The ethanol (vodka) serves as an emulsifier, allowing the water and lipids to remain mixed together.”

“Ethanol is also thought to solvate certain flavors from the tomato that would otherwise be inaccessible in water. This is seen in other vodka sauces, as well.”

Pretty neat! Read more about the origins of the dish here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penne_alla_vodka

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Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes Serves about 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight*
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 a large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • A generous pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed or petite diced tomatoes (sometimes I’ll do a 15 oz can of each for a more interesting texture)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Penne, cooked according to box instructions
  • Fresh parsley or basil for serving (optional)
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Instructions:

  1. Add the cashews to a blender along with the nutritional yeast and water, and blend until very smooth.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in butter for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté another 2 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly browned, and the mixture is very fragrant.
  3. Pour in the vodka and let cook for about 5 minutes, until the alcohol has cooked off.
  4. Add the tomatoes, stir, and let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened – you may need to lower the heat some.
  5. Stir in the cashew cream and cook for about 10 more minutes, until the sauce is thick and creamy.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste (I usually end up not needing any), and mix well.
  7. Serve over penne cooked according to box instructions, top with parsley or basil, and enjoy!

Notes:

*If using a high powered blender, you don’t need to pre-soak your cashews to soften them. If you’re short on time, you can immerse the cashews in boiling hot water for 15 minutes (don’t keep the water boiling, just make sure it’s very hot when you put the cashews in, and then let them sit)


Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Fusilli

Oh man… Have I mentioned my love for sun-dried tomatoes before? Yes? Well I’m gonna say it again – that intense, sweet-tart flavor is everything!

Some lovely sun-dried tomatoes along with sautéed onions and garlic, white wine, baby spinach, and a cashew cream sauce make this vegan pasta dish so creamy and flavorful!

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The fusilli pasta really grabs as much of the sauce as possible – it’s awesome.

Cook up this dish and be amazed as your multiple cups of spinach are reduced to what seems like a tablespoon. We’ve all been there, am I right?

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Caution: be sure to cook enough for all parties present because your house will be smelling heavenly. Thank you onion, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Anyways, let’s get to it:

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Prep time: 10 minutes – Cook time: 15 minutes – Serves: About 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or use the quick boil method*
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water (if using water, you may want to add a bit more salt)
  • 3/4 cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 of one medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 – 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I used a vegan pinot grigio)
  • 3 – 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz fusilli pasta, cooked (you could also use bowties, penne, fettuccine, you name it)
  • vegan parmesan for topping (optional)
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Instructions:

  1. Begin boiling the water for the fusilli pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Make the cashew cream by blending cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, and salt/pepper to taste until very smooth.
  3. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
  5. Then, toss in the sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach, cook for about 2 minutes or until the spinach is wilted.
  6. Pour in the wine and simmer for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced by half.
  7. Stir in the cashew cream sauce until combined, taste and add salt and pepper as needed, then add in the pasta noodles and stir again to coat.
  8. Top with vegan parmesan if you’d like, serve, and enjoy!

*Quick-boiling cashews: If you’re not someone who plans out far enough ahead to soak cashews overnight, you can add the cashews to a small sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, remove from the heat immediately, cover with a lid, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften.