Having grown up on Staten Island, I consider myself to be an honorary Italian-American girl. This recipe really gives one of my favorite pasta dishes, penne alla vodka, a new life — a new vegan life! Without losing any of the original, rich flavor or creamy consistency, this recipe is the perfect twist on a savory, comforting classic.
Special kitchen equipment: Immersion blender
Swap option: Swap in regular cream cheese for a vegetarian option. Swap in chickpea pasta for regular pasta for more protein.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoons Calabrian chiles in oil
- 1 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 to 3 ounces good quality vodka
- 1 (15-ounce) can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1 to 2 teaspoons cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup unsweetened vegan heavy cream or half and half
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
- 1 sprig fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 1 package colonne Pompeii (large fusilli) pasta
- 1/4 cup plain unsalted panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Place a large pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil.2.
While the pasta water heats up, make the spicy breadcrumbs. Add all ingredients for the topping into a bowl and mix to combine. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook panko mixture for about 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside while making the sauce.3.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add in vegan butter. Once hot, add in onions, garlic, Calabrian chilis and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes until onions begin to sweat. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt, black pepper and tomato paste.4.
Reduce heat to medium-low, add in the vodka and stir. After 30 seconds, add in the canned crushed tomatoes and stir. Let the tomatoes begin to slowly simmer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then add in the sugar and oregano.5.
Allow sauce to simmer another 3 to 4 minutes and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth, then continue to cook the sauce on a medium-low flame. Add in the vegan cream cheese, vegan creamer and a sprig of basil and stir. Taste and adjust for seasoning; add salt if necessary. Allow to simmer another 2 to 3 minutes, until the cream cheese has completely incorporated.6.
While the pasta sauce is cooking and the water comes to a boil, sprinkle in a generous amount of kosher salt and add in your pasta. Following package instructions, cook pasta until just before reaching al dente (the pasta will continue cooking when added to the sauce). Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup pasta water on the side.7.
Add the cooked pasta directly to the sauce and gently stir to coat all of the pasta. Add reserved pasta water if necessary to thin out and flavor the sauce.8.
Place the pasta in serving dishes, garnish with spicy breadcrumbs and fresh basil leaves if desired.
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