For a year, a little bottle of Skyy vodka from a conference sat in my cupboard, waiting for me to finally tackle a dairy-free vodka sauce. It’s a recipe that I’ve wanted to create for ages, but have hesitated as most dishes using alcohol are simply too pungent for my palate.
I finally took the plunge, and was rewarded with a rich, creamy, full-bodied sauce that is amazing with pasta (I use gluten-free noodles), fresh herbs, and nearly any protein.
This vodka sauce is also completely dairy-free, vegan, and made with delicious whole food ingredients.
For that extra something special, I roast the tomatoes (and optionally garlic) to bring out their robust flavor. It seemed only fitting since I’d be pairing them with such a bold beverage. That said, most of the alcohol does cook off the longer it simmers, and the flavor significantly mellows, resulting in a vodka sauce that is more creamy tomato than liquor-infused.
I also use a blend of cashews and cashew milk beverage for a truly rich and nutritious alternative to dairy cream that isn’t over the top heavy. Overall, it’s a comforting dish that’s easy to make any day, but with a touch of elegance and a beautiful pink hue (I used red and yellow heirloom tomatoes in the vodka sauce pictured below, so it has more of a creamy orange hue) that makes it perfect for Valentine’s Day, too!
Special Diet Notes & Options: Creamy Roasted Tomato Vodka Sauce with Penne
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan / plant-based, and vegetarian. Can be served over your favorite spiralized “noodles” for paleo.
Add-Ins: To make this even more of a meal, you can add cooked chicken, bacon or pancetta, shrimp, or your favorite vegan protein (vegetarian bacon, tofu, tempeh, etc.) to the dairy-free vodka sauce when you add the penne pasta.
No Vodka? Vodka sauce reportedly works well with dry white wine as an alternative. For alcohol-free, I think if you used the garlic and shallots, you could skip the alcohol altogether (you wouldn’t need to do the long simmer, but you may need to use less salt, if needed. It wouldn’t be vodka sauce anymore, but I’ve made tomato-cream sauces this way and they are mighty tasty.
- 2 lbs cherry, grape or mini tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1¼ teaspoons salt, divided, plus additional to taste
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, whole, unpeeled (optional)
- 1 shallots, thinly sliced or minced (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ cup vodka (or two 50 mL mini bottles)
- ½ cup raw cashew pieces
- ¾ to 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk beverage (can sub unsweetened coconut milk beverage)
- 4 large basil leaves, minced
- 12 ounces dry penne (gluten-free, if needed)
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
- Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Place the garlic, if using, on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the tomato skins have "popped" and are starting to brown in spots.
- Let the tomatoes cool 10 minutes, then add tomatoes with juices to a blender. Squeeze garlic pulp, if using, into the blender and add ½ teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots, if using, and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper and continue to saute 30 seconds.
- Remove from heat, whisk in tomato puree and vodka. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, grind the cashews in a spice grinder until powdered. Add the cashew flour, ¾ cup cashew milk beverage, and ½ teaspoon salt to your blender, and whiz until smooth and creamy. If desired, strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining nut bits.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Whisk the cashew cream into the tomato sauce, and continue to simmer for a few minutes, or until thickened. Add more cashew milk beverage if the sauce thickens too much. Taste test, and sprinkle in more salt, to taste (we use another ¼ to ½ teaspoon)
- Stir penne into sauce. Serve topped with fresh basil.
Acidity - If the sauce tastes a bit too acidic (can depend on your tomatoes), add a dash of sugar or a pinch of baking soda.