Penne Alla Vodka

This healthy penne a la vodka recipe replaces traditional heavy cream with raw cashews, full of heart-healthy fats and plant protein.

Raw cashews are the secret healthy ingredient in this penne alla vodka recipe. Soaked in hot water, drained, and blended with pasta cooking liquid along with a homemade rich tomato sauce make for a creamy sauce without the heavy cream. 

Difficulty: Beginner Servings: 6


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  1. Cover cashews with the hottest tap water and set aside to soak.

  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water (it should taste like seawater) to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. Before draining, use a glass measuring cup to collect about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Set aside, along with the drained pasta. 

  3. In the now empty Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the shallot along with a pinch of salt. Cook and stir until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.

  4. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste along with a pinch of salt. Cook, and stir, until slightly darkened in color, 5-8 minutes.

  5. Add the vodka, canned tomatoes and their juices, crushed red pepper flakes,  1 teaspoon salt, 10 grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then down to a low simmer. Use your spoon to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp vodka and turn off the heat

  6. Drain and rinse the cashews and add to a blender. Carefully add half the tomato sauce to the blender along with 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Blend on high power until completely smooth, about 30 seconds.

  7. Pour the sauce back into the pot on the stove and stir to combine. Turn heat to low and add the grated Parmesan, butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 10 grinds pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then stir in the pasta until warmed throughout. 

  8. Roughly chop the basil and toss with the pasta before serving.

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