I shouldn’t brag about having made this dish on Valentine’s Day. Because if I’m being honest, it reminds me of an ex-boyfriend who ate mostly white and pink foods off the kids’ menu, for whom penne alla vodka might as well have been a major food group.
He had other wonderful qualities, but being my co-pilot in taste was not one of them. So in a sense, this lightened up vegan penne alla vodka does remind me of my current love and how grateful I am to be with a fellow adventurous eater.
Sure, there may have been a time when Charlie would have vastly preferred the dose of heavy cream and cubed chicken, and was more than willing to pay the consequences at the end of the night. But he also continuously surprises me, this meatless year being no different.
You might not be able to tell from the photos but this plant-based vodka sauce has absolutely no milk, cream or thickener—not even of the nut or coco variety! It also has far less tomatoes than usual, which makes it a great option for those sensitive to acid or nightshades. What gives the sauce that gorgeous reddish-orange hue and a hint of sweetness are roasted carrots and fennel.
You throw this trio on a sheet pan and let them caramelize in the oven, then transfer them to a blender along with some veggie stock or water. The resulting sauce is thick, velvety and totally luscious. If you’re not Low FODMAP, you can add a little garlic or shallot to the roasting process, but I love the simplicity of this recipe and how many nutrients are packed into the sauce.
I’d like to say that this version is so good, my ex would never even know it’s not his usual penne alla vodka. But we both know that is probably untrue, and the exact reason why I’ve happily traded up in both the pasta and love department.
Read on for the recipe for this healthy vegan penne alla vodka sauce.
With health and hedonism,
Vegan Penne alla Vodka with Roasted Carrot-Tomato Sauce
- 1 pound carrots about 3 large, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1.5 pound vine tomatoes about 4 medium, quartered
- 1/2 fennel bulb sliced into thin wedges
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1 cup vegetable stock or water
- 12 ounces brown rice penne
- 1/3 cup basil leaves
- Garlic-infused oil optional, for garnish
- Red pepper flakes for garnish
Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Arrange the tomatoes, carrots and fennel on the sheet pan and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt. Drizzle the vegetables generously with olive oil, arrange in an even layer cut-side down so each piece touches the pan, and transfer to the oven.
Roast until the tomatoes are shriveled and have released their juices and the carrots are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
Transfer the vegetables to a high-powered blender, along with the vegetable stock or water, and puree until smooth, adding more broth as necessary.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of starchy pasta water, then drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the pan along with 1 cup vodka sauce, adding some of the pasta water to loosen it up if it seems too thick. Add more sauce as necessary and save the remainder for another use.
Divide the penne alla vodka between bowls and garnish with the basil, red pepper flakes and a dash of garlic infused oil, if using.