Vegan Penne alla Vodka with Tempeh “Pancetta”

This Vegan Penne alla Vodka is super creamy and packed with protein from the smoky tempeh “pancetta.”

30 Minute Vegan Vodka Sauce with Tempeh Pancetta

Matt works in the wines and spirits industry so every once in a while he comes home carrying boxes of free wine and liquor. Mostly, it’s leftover and pre-opened bottles from tasting events or sugary crap that we leave out by the dumpster. Oddly enough, it doesn’t go to waste because somebody in our apartment complex comes by and takes it… yeah.


Once in a blue moon, he brings home something goooood. Like a bottle of Grey Goose or Patron. And despite his career choice, we’re still not big drinkers around here. So a lot of it sits on our “liquor shelf” aka “$20 bookcase from Target” for way too long until we decide that the dumpster bandit deserves something a little fancier.

30 Minute Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce with Smoky Tempeh Pancetta

So since we’re vodka hoarders, we decided to throw it into our favorite marinara sauce with cashew cream and tempeh to make a vegan version of Penne alla Vodka. Also, we didn’t add just any plain ol’ tempeh. We mixed the tempeh with liquid smoke (and some other stuff)!

30 Minute Vegan Penne alla Vodka Sauce with Tempeh Pancetta

Liquid smoke is like magic in a bottle. If you haven’t tried it yet, buy a small bottle – it’s worth it – it’s so versatile and it lasts foreverrrrr. The tempeh “pancetta” substitutes the pancetta bacon that’s usually found in a more traditional Vodka Sauce.

So what’s the deal with this Vegan Penne alla Vodka?

  • INGREDIENTS: All the good stuff: Cashew Cream // Tempeh “Pancetta” // Marinara Sauce // Vodka (use a vodka that you would drink). Also, penne pasta!
  • TIMING: 30 Minutes. Simple to make! The longest part is cooking down the vodka. You need to cook the vodka until it’s no longer fragrant. Otherwise, your sauce will taste like straight vodka which wouldn’t be too yummy (although you might be too drunk to notice at that point anyway… hmmm…).
  • EXTRAS: Peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms – do it up! Also, don’t forget to top it with red pepper flakes and vegan parmesan.

Easy 30 Minute Vegan Vodka Sauce with Cashew Cream and Tempeh Pancetta

Vegan. Vodka. Sauce. Do it!

4.75 from 4 votes
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Vegan Penne alla Vodka
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins

This Vegan Penne alla Vodka is made with cashew cream and homemade tempeh "pancetta" for protein.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Vegan
Servings: 4 servings
to make the cashew cream
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
to make the tempeh "pancetta"
  • 4 oz. tempeh (usually half a block)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
to make the vodka sauce
  • 3-4 cups your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1 cup vodka (use a brand you would drink)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  1. Start by boiling generously salted water for the pasta. Follow instructions on pasta box for timing and set aside once cooked.

  2. Meanwhile, add all cashew cream ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend for 2 minutes or until creamy. Set aside. Use the quick-soak method for cashews if you need it!

  3. Add all tempeh "pancetta" ingredients to a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Dice tempeh into pieces about 1cm in size. Add tempeh to marinade and mix. Over medium-high heat, cook tempeh in a small skillet until browned throughout (about 5 minutes)

  4. In a large pan, add 3-4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce and heat over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup vodka, stir frequently to reduce the sauce by 1/4 cup or until the vodka smell dissipates (about 20 minutes).

  5. Once vodka sauce is ready, add your cashew cream mixture and stir to combine. Then add the cooked tempeh "pancetta" and stir to combine. Serve over penne.

Recipe Notes
IDEAS FOR EXTRAS: peas, grape tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach
Top with red pepper flakes and vegan parmesan.

Nutrition facts are approximate*

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  • Jim Maguire

    Matt, I’ll take all the booze you want to send to me, in fact, why not bring it and come visit? LOL. Vodka and red wine, good for your health, if consumed moderately.

    June 15, 2017 at 5:53 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      LOL great idea, Jim! I’ll ship a box and then fly over. If the box of booze gets there before I do, I trust you will know what to do with it 😉

      June 16, 2017 at 2:31 pm Reply
  • Doug

    Recipe sounds awesome…can’t wait to try it!

    June 15, 2017 at 11:23 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Thanks, Doug – Let us know if you have a chance!

      June 16, 2017 at 2:32 pm Reply
  • Strength and Sunshine

    One of my all time favorite! Never met someone who would think to turn down a fantastic penne vodka!

    June 19, 2017 at 4:31 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      I don’t think someone like that exists!! 🙂

      June 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm Reply
  • Becky Striepe

    This looks so good! I love penne alla vodka!

    June 19, 2017 at 6:16 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Thank you, Becky! Us too 🙂

      June 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm Reply
  • Anjali @ Vegetarian Gastronomy

    Just about my favorite pasta dish EVER! Love the tempeh addition!

    June 19, 2017 at 11:03 am Reply
    • pasta-based

      Thank you very much, Anjali! The tempeh really took it to another level of deliciousness 🙂

      June 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm Reply
  • Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day

    I’m hungry just looking at the photos! I am also a big pasta lover, and I am adding this recipe to my list!

    June 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      Awesome! You won’t be disappointed – let us know how it goes!

      June 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm Reply
  • Jasmine

    I used to love vodka sauce, I must make this it sounds amazing.

    June 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm Reply
    • pasta-based

      You really must! You will love it all over again, I promise 🙂

      June 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm Reply
  • Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs • Pasta-based

    […] couple weeks into our relationship, Matt cooked a homemade Penne alla Vodka dish for Valentine’s Day. Shortly after that, I taught Matt how to make my mom’s sauce and […]

    August 12, 2017 at 5:51 pm Reply
  • Larry

    I made this but left out the oil. I still tastes great. Don’t know why everyone seems to think they need oil when is so bad for the body!
    Thanks for the recipe, it is one of my go to dishes.

    August 21, 2017 at 11:53 am Reply
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