Long before I ever even heard the term “clean eating”, Pasta All Vodka was one of my absolute favorite entrees to order at an Italian restaurant. I had no idea how to make it –other than I assumed vodka was surely one of the ingredients!— but I wouldn’t have cared one bit had I known butter, heavy cream and loads of cheese were also all involved. But once I changed my eating habits and learned how to cook, I just assumed Pasta Alla Vodka was one of those recipes like a Bacon Double Cheeseburger that you couldn’t really remake into something healthy. So I never even bothered to try.
And then, about five years ago I got the idea to add hummus to my tomato sauce as an alternative to cream. Surprisingly, the hummus worked like a charm and really gave the tomato sauce a rich and creamy texture. Once I added in the vodka and then simmered everything together for about 10 minutes or so I had a make-shift clean Pasta Alla Vodka that was truly very tasty. By using store-bought Rao’s Marinara and prepared hummus I was able to throw a quick and easy dinner together in minutes. Rao’s with hummus and vodka might sound like a strange combo, but that’s how I made a clean (and speedy!) Pasta Alla Vodka for years and years. By the way, I use hummus as an alternative to mayo in my Egg Salad Recipe and it works incredibly well there too.
I would still be making my vodka sauce with hummus if it weren’t for discovering a new technique. Although the new method does take a few more minutes it is SO well worth it….
Pasta Alla Vodka with Cashew Cream!
I’m so excited to share this recipe. It has definitely become one of my family’s new favorites. Our son loves it so much that he even went to the trouble of making it all by himself one night when I said we were just having leftovers (nobody ever gets excited over leftovers lol). The only additional step with my new vodka sauce recipe is that you have to process the cashews with water in a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix, to make a cashew “cream”. It’s an extra step that takes no more than 3 minutes but trust me, it is so well worth it. When you taste the sauce, you will absolutely NOT believe it is butter, cream and cheese-free.
San Marzanos are the most famous plum tomato to come out of Italy and considered by many cooks to be the best tomatoes to use in a sauce. They have a mild sweet flavor and low acidity.
But believe it or not, all canned San Marzano tomatoes are not created equal. Although Cook’s Illustrated would disagree, I personally prefer Cento brand’s organic San Marzano tomatoes. It is not easy to find the organic variety at the supermarket, but if you use them as much as I do then you can order a pack of 6 from Amazon. You can always use the extra cans to make my San Marzano Oven Baked Chicken =)
Although the Pasta Alla Vodka is a weeknight dish for us, it would also be a great dish for guests. If you want to make it extra special, check out this recipe for adding pan-seared shrimp.
- 1 large can (35 ounces) San Marzano tomatoes
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced very, very thin
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- 10 ounces whole grain penne
- 2 tablespoons Vodka (I like Devotion Vodka)
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup cashews
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Add the tomatoes to a blender container and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion; saute for 6 to 7 minutes, or until onion is soft. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt. Add the pureed tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the penne to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain (but do not rinse the pasta!) and set pasta aside.
- In a high speed blender, add the vodka, water, cashews and coconut sugar; process on high speed until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour the vodka-cashew cream in with the tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and season with salt to taste.
- Add the cooked pasta in with the sauce and toss to coat. Cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve warm with chopped fresh basil.
LOOKING FOR MORE CLEAN EATING RECIPES?
If you liked the Pasta Alla Vodka recipe, be sure to check out our Clean Cuisine Dinners digital cookbook! The book features a full month of clean eating dinner recipes including weekly menu planner, shopping lists and more!