This rigatoni with vegan vodka sauce has all the lusciousness of its dairy-laden cousin by incorporating a cashew purée that lends creaminess and body to the tomato sauce. Sorry, Elsie the Cow. (That’s the name of Borden brand’s iconic cow for those of you young whippersnappers.)
Simple, straightforward, no-fuss, and it also happens to taste pretty darn spectacular. Just some of the reasons we love this vegan riff on the creamy, satiating, perennially popular vodka pasta.–Angie Zoobkoff
Rigatoni with Vegan Vodka Sauce
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for garnish
- One (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vodka*
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- Finely chopped or ripped fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Set a large pot of heavily salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and place it off the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully stir in the tomatoes and their juices, salt, and as much or as little brown sugar as personal preference dictates. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the vodka and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Toss the cashews and water in a blender and process on high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomato mixture to the blender and blend again until smooth.
- Pour the sauce into the pot with the pasta and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Top each serving with a pinch of red pepper flakes and, if desired, a scattering of basil. (The sauce can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.) Originally published September 14, 2018.
*Does vodka sauce really need vodka?More than just an indulgent leftover from the late 70s, adding vodka to a creamy tomato sauce does, in fact, make a difference. Altering the flavor in a subtle yet pleasing way, vodka adds a touch of heat and a sharp bite that can balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and cream. It isn't absolutely necessary but you'll find that your sauce won't be quite the same without it.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I'm not vegan but I enjoy trying recipes that incorporate a healthy twist like the cashew cream in this pasta dish. My kids loved it and none of us missed the heavy cream. And skipping the heavy cream made me feel less guilty when I went back for a second helping!
To make it even more healthy I'm going to try harder to track down whole wheat rigatoni next time I make it. To save time and the hassle of adding all of the sauce into the blender for a final puree, I plan on using crushed tomatoes next time as well.
This spicy vegan vodka rigatoni is absolutely fabulous, a delicious addition to any sauce repertoire. Elegant was the term my husband thought best described it. My family and I enjoyed this twice in the test week and found it to be as good 3 days later.
I feel that the cashews really add a depth of flavor. Add to that the ease of this recipe and that all ingredients were in my pantry. A quick and delicious winner.
This vegan vodka rigatoni is a wonderful, quick, no-fuss weeknight meal. The preparation is simple and straightforward, allowing you to cook the pasta while sautéing/pureeing the sauce ingredients.
When prepared as written, the finished result is delightfully creamy with a kick that made my spice-phobic friend feel, and I quote, daring while eating it (with no next-day heartburn!).
Originally published September 14, 2018