Penne with Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce

What do you do when your 8 year-old son’s favorite meal title includes the word vodka?  You rename the dish. That is how Orange Sauce Pasta was born.  Don’t worry for my son, or any children you might cook this for. The vodka and tomatoes roast in the oven for 90 minutes, burning off all of the alcohol.  However, I didn’t want Trey running to school and saying his favorite dish was Vegan Vodka Sauce Pasta so we changed the name to the more child-friendly Orange Sauce Pasta.  This dish is not only Trey’s favorite dish, but a huge hit with ALL of the vegans and omnivores I have made it for. The sauce is richly flavored and the addition of cashew cream gives it a luscious texture. If you have any omnivores coming over for dinner who are a bit suspicious of vegan food this is what you make them. It has familiar ingredients and outstanding flavor.

Vegan Vodka Sauce

I saw the original version of the recipe made on Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa.  She had the chef from Nick & Toni’s Hampton restaurant on to make one of his signature dishes: Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola.  The finished sauce looked incredible so I decided to create a vegan version.  This was an instant hit.

Vegan Vodka Sauce PreCook

Don’t be intimidated by the long cooking time.  Most of the time is spent letting the tomatoes, onions, garlic and vodka slowly roast in the oven.  I like to make this sauce when I am going to be at home for a few hours doing other projects.  It is very hands-off and your house will smell fantastic.

Vegan Vodka Sauce After Roasting

Make a double batch of the recipe.  It freezes really well and is convenient to have on hand for last minute dinners or company.  Don’t skip the fresh oregano added to the sauce at the end of the recipe.  It is a small amount, but adds a lot of flavor.

Vegan Vodka Sauce Close Up

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Penne with Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce
Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce is deeply flavorful and perfect for your next dinner party. Serve this to anyone suspicious of vegan food being delicious.
  • ¼ cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1 Cup Water
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of Garlic, diced
  • ½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 1 cup Vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled Whole Tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 lb Penne Pasta, cooked
  • 4 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Start Cashew Cream - Soak cashews in 1 cup of water while you prepare the sauce. See Note.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof sauté pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture has reduced by half.
  4. Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands after the vodka has reduced. Add salt and black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook it in the oven for 1.5 hours.
  5. Finish Cashew Cream - While the sauce is cooking go back to your cashews soaking in water. Blend the cashews and water in a high powered blender for 2 minutes until cashews are completely blended. Set aside until sauce has completed cooking.
  6. Remove the pan with tomatoes from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan over low heat.
  8. Add 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano. Add cashew cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh oregano on top.
If you don't have a high powered blender to make the Cashew Cream you will need to soak cashews in water for 8 hours, or overnight. This will allow you to create a smooth Cashew Cream in a standard blender.


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Vegan Gretchen


  1. Janis says

    We had this for dinner tonight. Oh my goodness! My husband thinks I’m the greatest cook ever. Even my omnivore son thought it was great. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, except we don’t use oil, so I simply dry-sauteed the onions & garlic, omitting the oil.

    Easy to make & tasted great. Also, my only blender is a Magic Bullet. Although I soaked the cashews all day, it worked fine for making the cashew cream. (Used my food processor to smooth the tomatoes & onions.) Although this is a recipe that requires some advance planning, it didn’t require much on hands-on work.

    • vegangretchen says

      Hi Janis – I’m so glad your whole family liked the recipe. It is my son’s absolute favorite. Good to know that dry sauteing works for people who avoid oil. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Matt Braun says

    I love this recipe! Thank you! I would add though that it is spicy and although I love that, it bears noting that if I were making this for a group I may add less pepper. I used salted cashews (it was all that we had) and to account for that I only added 1 teaspoon of salt. I also recommend peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes (they cost a bit more but have a fantastic flavor). My wife and I both loved it and share it with her parents. Thanks again!

    • vegangretchen says

      Hi Matt – I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Great point about adjusting the spice based on who you are serving. My family loves spicy food so I tend to forget that is not the case for everyone!


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