Vegan Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

By Alexandra Caspero on November 19, 2012

Today, I am going to share a twist on a classic pasta dish I grew up eating at least once a week- Penne alla vodka! This penne pasta dish is made with whole wheat penne tossed in a creamy vegan sauce and served with homemade mushroom meatballs.

Growing up, we were allowed to pick any dish we wanted for our birthday. Being the good Italian child that I am, I usually rotated between ravioli and pasta fagoli. As I got older, though, this penne alla vodka became my favorite birthday dish!

Rich, creamy, decadent, penne alla vodka is still one of my favorite meals.

Penne Pasta With Vegan Vodka Cream Sauce In A White Bowl

Even though it’s nowhere near my birthday, I decided to recreate this dish for a special date night dinner with my husband. While this used to be a special once-a-year meal, recreating this penne pasta dish without the excess cream, butter, and cheese allows me to enjoy it whenever I get a pasta craving.

Note: For a complete list of ingredients and instructions on how to make this vegan penne alla vodka, keep scrolling down until you see the recipe card! 

Penne A La Vodka With Mushroom Meatballs

Tips For Making The Best Penne Alla Vodka Recipe

Whole-wheat fusilli, savory cashew cream, and vodka tomato sauce- Collectively, these 3 components are what make this penne alla vodka recipe really shine.

Even so, here are a few cooking tips I wanted to share with you to make cooking this pasta dish even easier for dinner:

  • If you are gluten-free, you can easily swap out the whole wheat pasta for brown rice or quinoa-based pasta instead. Using chickpea pasta will amp up the amount of protein in this recipe too!
  • Instead of using a vegan creamer, I decided to use cashews to make a savory cream to add to the tomato sauce. To make the cream, make sure to soak the cashews in water for at least 30 minutes before you plan to use them. Soaking the cashews helps blend them in the food processor much easier. Plus, you get a smooth creamy sauce every time!
  • On a time crunch? Omit the cashew cream sauce and use some non-dairy creamer instead. You can also use a thicker plant-based milk, like oat milk. Using coconut milk might throw off the flavor as it has a stronger flavor profile. 
  • I added 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to give the vodka sauce a little bit of a kick. But, if you don’t like spice, you can always just leave it out. Or, you can add a full teaspoon if you want to make it a spicy vodka tomato sauce. 
  • Make sure you let the vodka tomato sauce simmer long enough to cook off some of the alcohol flavors. Trust me- you don’t want a spoonful of that; It’ll ruin the dish!

A Bowl Of Homemade Mushroom Meatballs

What To Serve Alongside Penne Pasta With Vegan Vodka Cream Sauce

When I was growing up, my mom would make a big bowl of this creamy pasta dish and serve it with some baked chicken and garlic bread.

However, to keep this meal vegan and healthy, I simply toss together a raw kale caesar salad or roast some broccoli florets. For a heartier dinner, I’ll typically serve this penne alla vodka with my homemade mushroom meatballs. It pairs perfectly!

Vegan Penne A La Vodka Recipe With Mushroom Meatballs

More Pasta Dishes To Try:

I hope you enjoy this vegan penne alla vodka as much as we do. If you try it, make sure to come back, leave a comment and rate it. Your feedback helps others and seeing you make my recipes makes my day! 

Penne A La Vodka! Vegan Sauce Tossed With Whole Wheat Penne. Served With Homemade Mushroom Meatballs!

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Penne A La Vodka! Vegan Sauce Tossed With Whole Wheat Penne. Served With Homemade Mushroom Meatballs!

Penne a la Vodka



  • 1 large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. Earth Balance butter
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in 1 cup water for at least 30 minutes. Soaking allows them to blend easier.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 oz. penne pasta


  1. In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onions, and garlic; cook down until soft and onions are translucent. Stir in red pepper flakes and salt. Add crushed tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Add vodka to the sauce and cook an additional 5 minutes until alcohol is cooked off.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Add the soaked and drained cashews to a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup of water and blend until a smooth sauce forms, about 2 minutes depending on the power of your blender. Pour the cream into the tomato sauce, stir to mix and reduce heat to low.
  4. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, sauce, and reserved pasta water.
  5. Put a big fork into the pasta and eat!

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Chef, and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Evi @ greenevi
      October 16, 2014 AT 7:24 am

      We had the same tradition about choosing birthday meals, and I also always chose pasta dishes. But I have never tried penne a la vodka, actually no dish with vodka, so I am now really curious, have to try this out 🙂

      1. DK
        October 17, 2014 AT 10:26 am

        I hope you like it! Birthday meals are the best, even a simple pasta dish! 🙂

    2. Bridget
      October 16, 2013 AT 8:11 pm

      Ah! I used to be obsessed with penne a la vodka growing up. Probably not the healthiest.. Definitely will be trying this recipe in the near future, much thanks

      1. DK
        October 17, 2013 AT 9:01 am

        This is one of my favorite dishes- hope you like it!