Ina Garten is a true icon. Her unabashedly decadent approach to classic dishes is such a welcome contrast to most of the recipes in the plant-based world that eliminate oil, gluten, and seemingly all things yummy. This is my take on her Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola, originally by Joseph Realmuto. I’ve been making this vegan penne alla vodka for years—it’s such a crowd pleaser!
This recipe takes a while to come together, but most of the time is hands-off while the delicious sauce stews in the oven. If you’re having people over, it’s best to plan ahead. You can always bake + blend the sauce in advance and keep it at a very low simmer on the stove until you’re ready to cook off the pasta and serve it up.
This is particularly easy to veganize since you’re already busting out your high-speed blender to blend the delicious tomato sauce. But rather than adding heavy cream, you simply throw a handful of whole raw cashews into the blender and watch it get silky and creamy.
While penne is classic in this dish, rigatoni, farfalle, or other short pastas would work well, too.
My best advice? Have something green, bright, and acidic on deck to accompany this vegan penne alla vodka. It’s so decadent that a leafy salad or lemony broccoli on the side will be a welcome addition.
Want more plant-based pastas?
Vegan Penne Alla Vodka
- Dutch oven
- High-speed blender
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 yellow onions diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano plus more for garnishing
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes plus more if desired
- 1 cup vodka
- 2 28-oz cans whole peeled san marzano tomatoes
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 lb penne
- 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup grated vegan parmesan plus more for garnishing
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Carefully add the vodka, standing back to avoid flames, and simmer for 5–7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half.
- Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven to bake for 1 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Drain, reserving about a cup of pasta water, and set aside.
- Pour the tomato mixture, cashews and water into a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy. Be sure to vent the top with a towel to let the pressure out—the mixture will be very hot. Return the blended mixture to the dutch oven.
- Add the fresh oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for 2 minutes so that everything comes together nicely. Add a bit of reserved pasta water if you like a thinner sauce.
- Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup of the vegan parmesan cheese and serve sprinkled with extra herbs and parmesan.