An easy, family friendly dinner that everyone loves! This lighter version of penne alla vodka subs heavy cream for protein dense white kidney beans, without sacrificing flavour or creaminess. Prepare to be impressed!
Penne alla vodka is not traditionally a nutritious dish.
This version, however, is FAR healthier than any penne alla vodka I’ve ever tried, but still tastes absolutely amazing.
The fact that it’s vegetarian and vegan friendly is an added bonus.
The vegan vodka sauce is gluten free and you may use your favourite gluten free pasta, if needed, making this an allergen friendly choice too.
Why you’ll love this vegan vodka sauce
It’s actually healthy!
Not just ‘healthy for penne alla vodka sauce’, but truly nutritious.
Rather than use heavy cream to turn your red sauce into the gorgeous pink hue of a good vegan vodka sauce, I’m using pureed white beans and light canned coconut milk to bring you a healthier and delicious, vegan penne alla vodka.
In addition to it being vegan, vegetarian and gluten free, this vegan vodka sauce is also nut free and soy free too.
So if you’re having guests with any kind of allergy or intolerance, I’ve got almost all of them covered, and everyone will LOVE this vegan penne alla vodka.
It’s nutrient dense, low in fat, allergen friendly, perfectly suitable for all kinds of eaters, and it’s incredibly delicious, filling, hearty and comforting.
Could there be anything better??
How to make vegan penne alla vodka
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Gather your ingredients. Clean and slice your mushrooms, chop your shallots and mince your garlic. That takes care of most of your vegan vodka sauce prep.
Start by melting the butter, if using, and sautéing your chopped shallots. (photo 1)
NOTE: If you’re avoiding oil, you may sauté in water or broth instead.
Then add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, stirring often to prevent sticking. (photos 2-3)
Now add the sliced mushrooms and continue to sauté. (photo 4)
Sauté the mushrooms until reduced and nicely carmelized. (photo 5)
Then pour in the vodka and cook until mostly evaporated. (photos 6-7)
NOTE: The alcohol content will cook out, but the robust flavour it leaves behind is incredible.
Once the vodka is mostly absorbed, pour in your tomato sauce and seasoning, mix well and let your vegan vodka sauce simmer. (photo 8)
While the sauce is cooking, get a large pot of salted water ready to cook your pasta. Bring it to a boil and once boiling cook your penne according to package directions for al dente pasta.
Meanwhile, prepare the cream for your vegan vodka sauce. Add the white beans and coconut milk to a blender. Then process until smooth, and set aside. (photos 9-10)
When your sauce is cooked, turn off the heat and pour in the bean and milk mixture. (photos 11-12)
Mix well until your vegan vodka sauce is a beautiful orange/pink colour. (photos 13-14)
Taste the sauce and add a little more seasoning if desired, at this time.
When your pasta is cooked, drain and serve with a generous portion of the vegan vodka sauce. Then garnish with fresh chives or parsley and enjoy.
Can I make it ahead?
Yes, you may fully prepare and cook your vegan vodka sauce ahead of time. However, the pasta tastes best when freshly cooked.
If making the sauce ahead, refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Then heat the sauce on stove top while you cook your pasta.
How long does it keep?
Your vegan penne alla vodka leftovers will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for 3-4 days, just reheat and serve.. Just reheat in a skillet and enjoy.
You may also freeze the fully cooked vegan vodka sauce in an air tight container for up to 2 months.
However, I do not recommend freezing the pasta as it will get very soft and mushy. Freeze the sauce separately and make fresh pasta on the day you’ll be enjoying.
Expert Tips for the best vegan penne alla vodka
- Don’t skip the vodka. The vodka’s purpose in this dish is to intensify and release the flavours in the tomato sauce. After all it’s a vegan vodka sauce! If you don’t have vodka, you may substitute for white wine with similar results. The alcohol content will cook out in the sauce, but if you’re avoiding alcohol for health reasons, you may skip it with slightly different results.
- Cook your pasta ‘al dente’. Al dente pasta is typically 1-3 minutes “underdone”. This is how Italians eat their pasta. We like a little bit of bite, as opposed to a mushy mess. Since the hot vegan vodka sauce will continue cooking the pasta more once served, it’s always best to slightly under cook pasta.
- For even richer sauce, use full fat coconut milk. In order to keep the fat content lower, I typically use light. But if you’re having company, or it’s a special occasion, or just a night that you’re splurging, full fat coconut milk will make all the difference in your vegan penne alla vodka.
- If you don’t have white beans, you may sub for 1/2 cup raw cashews and blend up with the coconut milk or water. Or you may use a 300g package of soft or silken tofu blended up and skip the milk and water for this option. Keep in mind the cashews will increase the calories and fat, and no longer be nut free. The tofu option won’t have a huge impact on calories and fat (especially since you’re also dropping the coconut milk in this option), but the dish will no longer be soy free.
- For coconut free: you may use any plant based milk you like, bearing in mind the results will be slightly less creamy and rich. Soy milk and cashew milk work well with similar results.
More vegan pasta recipes
- Vegan Pasta e Fagioli
- Vegan Baked Pasta
- Sweet Potato Noodles w/ Vegan Alfredo Sauce
- Vegan Pumpkin Gnocchi made from scratch!
- Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
- Vegetable Bolognese Zucchini Noodles
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- 1 tbsp vegan butter or margarine omit for oil free and sauté in water or broth instead
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 200 g cremini mushrooms sliced
- 1/2 cup vodka optional, but recommended
- 32 oz tomato sauce or 4 cups
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1 cup white kidney beans cooked or canned
- 2/3 cup lite coconut milk canned
- 1 lb penne pasta gluten free if preferred
- Chopped fresh chives
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Melt the butter, if using, in a large sauce pot. Then add the shallots and sauté until translucent, approx 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds or so. Now add the sliced mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are reduced. This will take about 3-4 minutes.
- Next, pour in the vodka, and stir continuously until absorbed, about 1 minute. Then pour in the tomato sauce, salt and oregano and let your sauce simmer over medium/low heat for about 20-25 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil, and cook your penne according to the package directions for al dente pasta.
- Meanwhile, add your white beans and coconut milk to a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
- Once your sauce is cooked, turn off the heat and pour in the bean and coconut milk mixture. Stir until combined. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if you'd like.
- Drain your pasta and serve with a generous serving of the vodka sauce. Garnish with fresh chives or vegan parmesan cheese, if desired.