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.
I created this recipe for So Delicious Dairy Free, to highlight their amazing creamy yet light cashew milk beverage – it’s a new unsweeetened staple in my kitchen!
- 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.
I would recommend no cashew milk and something else because the cashew milk overpowered the recipe
Sorry that the cashew milk beverage didn’t work for your tastes. You are welcome to substitute another milk beverage. Just make sure it is unsweetened and unflavored. Coconut milk beverage blends nicely with cashew.
Made this last night and it is amazing! I didnt have enough tomaties so I added some passata, and mixed spinach leaves thru at the end. ?
Love the spinach addition! Thanks for your feedback and sharing your modifications Rachel!
This was soooooo good! Thanks for sharing your recipe, it is now one of my favourites that I will be making again!
Fabulous! Glad you loved it Becky, and thank you for the feedback.
Phenomenal!! I used Oatmilk and added a little stevia along with some Beyond Meat Italian Sausage. Flavors perfect, really. Thank you!
Glad you enjoyed it Ida!
This sauce sounds amazing! I have coconut milk, but I don’t have cashews. Can I make it just with the cashew milk and some pine nuts?
You can substitute pine nuts for the cashews – just keep in mind that the flavor will be a little different, and pine nuts don’t absorb as much liquid – they’re more oily while cashews are drier. So I don’t want to promise spot on results with those substitutions!
Have you ever used canned tomatoes for this sauce?
I have another version where I do use canned tomatoes, but haven’t with this recipe. Roasting really does affect the flavor and meld well with the vodka aspect, so I greatly prefer it. If you opt for canned, I would drain but reserve the liquid and add it as needed. I would try to buy the roasted ones too.
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Yum! I made this tonight for my boyfriend and I. It was so delicious! We are gluten and dairy free because of allergies so sometimes it’s hard to find great recipies. This didn’t disappoint at all! Will definitely be making this time and time again! Thank you!!!
So happy you enjoyed it and thanks for the feedback Ashley!
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This recipe has become a family favorite and the one my dairy and meat eating husband requests the most frequently. My kids LOVE it more than mac and cheese. I put it on top of zoodles and top with pine nuts.
This is the BEST sauce!!!
I’m exited to make it for extended family while on vacation next week! Thank you!
Fantastic! So glad your family loves it and thanks for the feedback Rachel.
This was awesomesauce! Beyond being dairy free, I would eat this sauce any day. Added a little Italian sausage and couldn’t stop eating it! Thanks!
So glad you loved it as much as we do Dan!
Is there a way to make this without the cashews? I have a tree nut allergy and I haven’t been able to find a good penne alla vodka in years.!
It should work with coconut milk / cream in place of the cashews and cashew milk beverage, but I haven’t tested exact amounts.
This was so simple and delicious!!! It definitely helps if you have a Vitamix. I chose to add a TB of nutritional yeast for some extra cheesy flavor. Thanks for the recipe!
That’s great! So glad you enjoyed it Erin.
Is there a different but I can use besides cashews?
Hi Christine, please see the coconut milk option I’ve included in the post.
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Absolutely delicious! Love it! It takes more effort than a typical recipe, but it is worth it.
Glad you enjoyed it Jennifer!
This was actually so incredible!!! Made this tonight and my non vegan mom LOVED it and said it was better than regular vodka sauce!!!! I used the nutritional yeast in the sauce and fresh basil on top, and it was the best penne a la vodka ever. Thank you!!!!!!
That’s wonderful! I’m happy to hear that you and your mother enjoyed my recipe so much Julianna and greatly appreciate your feedback.
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Overall great recipe, just a word of caution to celiacs that Skyy Vodka is not gluten free. Made this for my sister who is celiac without being too cautious about the vodka. Luckily, she only took two bites (which she loved) before we realized my mistake and thankfully had only a minor reaction.
On a positive note, will definitely write this recipe into my cookbook for future use!!
Oh no! I’m so sorry about your sister Monica (and thank you for the heads up!). I hope she is feeling much better, and can enjoy the recipe with you using another brand. Thank you for your feedback!
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