This rich and creamy vegan vodka sauce uses cashews instead of heavy cream and forgoes the booze. Read on for the genius technique!
Traditional vodka sauce (a.k.a. pink sauce, blush sauce, or “pasta rosa”) refers to tomato sauce tinged with heavy cream, resulting in pasta equal parts sharp and tangy, and rich and creamy.
The solution for those of us avoiding dairy? Cashews. (It’s always cashews!) This vegan vodka sauce recipe with cashew cream (and no vodka – read on for details) is just as rich, delicious, and irresistible as the original. Let’s dive in!
Ingredients for Dairy-Free Vodka Sauce
- Raw Cashews: Are a substitute for heavy cream. First they’re soaked in boiling water, then blended into a rich cream and added to the tomato sauce. (Do not substitute with roasted cashews; they’re drier and have a toasty flavor that would overpower the sauce.)
- Onion and Garlic: Create the foundational flavor of the sauce.
- Canned Tomato Sauce
- Chili Flakes: For a bit of heat.
- Miso: Lends a salty, savory bite to the sauce. Can technically be subbed with an equal amount of nutritional yeast, though the result won’t be quite the same.
- Pasta: Vodka sauce works best on short pastas, like rigatoni, penne, orecchiette, etc. For a healthier version, use whole wheat pasta instead of white – or an alt-pasta, like lentil or chickpea pasta.
- Starchy Pasta Water: Before draining your pasta, reserve a bit of the cloudy cooking water and stir it into the pasta. It thins out the sauce and binds everything together.
Why Is There No Vodka?
I’ve always been perplexed as to why there’s vodka in this Italian-American classic. Wine in food makes sense, since it adds acidity and creates a delicious sauce. But vodka? It’s flavorless and evaporates anyway – what’s the point?
I headed to Serious Eats, a source I trust blindly with all matters of food science, which has (yay!) done a lab test on the subject. Turns out, vodka does enhance the tomato flavor… but only by a tiny bit. Long story short, my vegan vodka sauce doesn’t actually call for vodka, since I don’t drink the stuff and it’s not necessary anyway.
Soak the Cashews: Start by placing your cashews in a blender, Nutribullet, or Vitamix, and adding a cup of boiling water. Set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes (or up to several hours, if your plans change). This will soften the nuts and help them blend into a smooth cream.
Sauté the Aromatics: Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and add finely diced onion, garlic, chili flakes, and salt. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. (It’s a great idea to start boiling water for the pasta at this point.)
Add Tomato Sauce: Add a can of tomato sauce to the skillet, season with black pepper, cover with a lid, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes so the flavors can come together.
Blend the Cashews and Combine: After the nuts have soaked for 30 minutes, add miso to the blender, and puree until smooth. The cashew cream should have a similar consistency to heavy cream, and not have a gritty texture or any lumps. Stir the cashew cream into the tomato sauce.
Add to Pasta: Boil your pasta and reserve some of the cloudy pasta water before draining. Return the drained pasta to the pot and stir in the creamy tomato sauce along with some of that reserved water. Season with salt and pepper if needed, and serve immediately.
Can You Make Vegan Vodka Sauce In Advance?
Yes! You can cook the sauce through step 6 [below], transfer it to an airtight container, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to eat, cook your pasta and warm up the creamy tomato sauce, then combine the two, along with some of the starchy pasta-cooking water.
More veganized Italian favorites…
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag @thenewbaguette on Instagram with your creation.Print
This creamy vegan tomato pasta uses cashews instead of heavy cream and forgoes the booze.
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons white miso* (see note below)
- 1 pound short pasta, like rigatoni or penne
- Place 1/2 cup cashews in a blender and add 1 cup boiling water. Soak for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, chili flakes, and salt, and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onion.
- Add the tomato sauce and black pepper, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is a bit thickened.
- Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons miso to the blender. Puree until completely smooth and creamy. Stir the cashew cream into the tomato sauce and turn the heat off.
- Salt the boiling water and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Return the hot drained pasta to the pot, and stir in the creamy tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. (Add more pasta water if a creamier consistency is desired.) Serve immediately.
Miso lends a salty, savory bite to the sauce. It can technically be subbed with an equal amount of nutritional yeast, though the result won’t be quite the same.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 400
- Fat: 11.4 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Carbohydrates: 63.6 g
- Fiber: 4.1 g
- Protein: 12.5 g
Keywords: vegan, cashews, vodka sauce, pasta