Vegan Penne alla Vodka

This Vegan Penne alla Vodka Sauce recipe is creamy, luscious, and easy to put together. Growing up, I’d call this sauce “pink sauce” and always thought of it as a mix between alfredo and marinara.

While making a vegan version of this recipe, we decided to add a smoky tempeh “pancetta” to emphasize the traditional version of this dish.

Red sauce in a pan with penne pasta, peas, broccoli, tempeh pancetta and parsley.

Matt works in the wines and spirits industry so he often comes home with boxes of leftover booze. He came home with a bottle of vodka recently and since we’re not big drinkers, we decided to put it to use another way — in this creamy, smooth penne alla vodka sauce!

Adding vodka to penne all vodka adds a sweetness to the sauce as the alcohol cooks down. It also helps to cut a little bit of the acidity from the tomato sauce.

Red sauce in a pan with penne pasta, peas, broccoli, tempeh pancetta and parsley.

The tempeh is infused with a savory marinade that includes a few splashes of liquid smoke. 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 forever.

The tempeh pancetta comes out crispy, smoky, savory and just overall mouth watering.  We could seriously eat them all by themselves!  It can also work for any other recipe that calls for bacon, so give it a shot in other recipes too.

Tempeh pancetta by Pasta-based.

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.
  • EXTRAS: Peas, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms – do it up! Also, don’t forget to top it with red pepper flakes and vegan parmesan.

Redsauce in a pan with penne pasta, peas, broccoli, tempeh pancetta and parsley.

Vegan. Vodka. Sauce. Do it!

4.91 from 10 votes
Vegan Vodka Sauce by Pasta-based. Creamy, rich, luscious, smooth tomato and cashew cream sauce.
Vegan Penne alla Vodka
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins

Easy, smooth, and creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce. Made with garlicky marinara sauce, rich cashew cream, and a homemade crispy tempeh 'pancetta'. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Vegan
Servings: 4 servings
Calories per Serving: 580 kcal
cashew cream
  • 1/2 cup cashews*
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
tempeh 'pancetta'
  • 4 ounces tempeh (usually half a block)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
to make the vodka sauce
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup vodka (use a brand you would drink)
  • 8 ounces 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 raw cashews into a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from heat. Let sit for 15 minutes to soak cashews. Drain before using.

  3. Once the cashews are ready, add all cashew cream ingredients to a blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes or until creamy.  Set aside. 

  4. To make the tempeh pancetta, add minced garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, and black pepper to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine. Dice tempeh into small cubes about one centimeter big. Add tempeh to marinade and mix with a spoon. Cook tempeh, with marinade, in a small skillet over medium-high heat until browned throughout, about 5 minutes (see photo).

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

  6. 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 warm over penne.

Recipe Notes
  • *The recipe instructions include the 15-minute quick-soak method. If you already have pre-soaked cashews, you can skip that part.
  • IDEAS FOR EXTRAS: peas, grape tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach
  • Top with red pepper flakes and vegan parmesan.

Nutrition Facts
Vegan Penne alla Vodka
Amount Per Serving
Calories 580 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Sodium 1799mg78%
Potassium 1265mg36%
Carbohydrates 69g23%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 16g18%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 1060IU21%
Vitamin C 17.7mg21%
Calcium 89mg9%
Iron 5.5mg31%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce by Pasta-based. Easy to make and perfect for dinner. Garlicky marinara sauce, smooth cashew cream, and a splash of vodka. Add tempeh pancetta for a traditional dish.
Creamy Vegan Vodka Sauce by Pasta-based. Easy to make and perfect for dinner. Garlicky marinara sauce, smooth cashew cream, and a splash of vodka. Add tempeh pancetta for a traditional dish.
June 6, 2017



  1. Reply

    Jim Maguire

    June 15, 2017

    4 stars
    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.

    • Reply


      June 16, 2017

      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 😉

  2. Reply


    June 15, 2017

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

    • Reply


      June 16, 2017

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

  3. Reply

    Strength and Sunshine

    June 19, 2017

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

    • Reply


      June 20, 2017

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

  4. Reply

    Becky Striepe

    June 19, 2017

    This looks so good! I love penne alla vodka!

    • Reply


      June 20, 2017

      Thank you, Becky! Us too 🙂

  5. Reply

    Anjali @ Vegetarian Gastronomy

    June 19, 2017

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

    • Reply


      June 20, 2017

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

  6. Reply

    Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day

    June 19, 2017

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

    • Reply


      June 20, 2017

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

  7. Reply


    June 19, 2017

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

    • Reply


      June 20, 2017

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

  8. Reply


    August 21, 2017

    5 stars
    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.

  9. Reply

    Nicole Dawson

    May 1, 2018

    Ok, so I have to admit that I’ve never made a vodka sauce…..but that’s going to change now 🙂

  10. Reply


    May 7, 2018

    5 stars
    That tempeh pancetta looks SO good! Well, who am I kidding? The whole thing looks so good! It may be pasta night at our house soon!

  11. Reply

    Jasmin | VeeatCookBake

    May 7, 2018

    This sauce sounds perfect. Never thought about a vodka sauce. Do you notice the taste of vodka strongly?

    • Reply


      May 11, 2018

      Nope! The vodka adds a new complex flavor to the tomato sauce without tasting like alcohol. There are flavor compounds in foods, especially in tomatoes, that are alcohol soluble. That means these flavors are not released unless they are mixed with alcohol. That being said, you will still want to cook down the alcohol as much as possible. If your sauce tastes too much like vodka then cook it longer!

  12. Reply


    May 15, 2018

    We love pasta with vodka sauce around here and I am intrigued by the tempeh pancetta. Will definitely give that a try!

  13. Reply

    Linda from Veganosity

    May 19, 2018

    I love vodka sauce, it’s so great that we ate able to veganize it. Your recipe sounds delicious!!

  14. Reply


    December 28, 2019

    5 stars
    This was amazing, even without the tempeh. I served it over handmade sweet potato linguini. Amazing! Thank you for the recipe.


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