It was Saturday night and I hadn’t made it to the grocery store since Monday. We’d had takeout the night before, and none of us felt like going out for dinner, so I took a look at what I had on hand and pulled out my favorite cookbook, Heather Christo’s Pure Delicious, where I found a recipe for Penne with Creamy Tomato-Vodka Sauce. I needed gluten-free penne (check), garlic and onion (check), crushed tomatoes (yep), unsweetened coconut milk (one can left), and some gluten-free vodka (one dusty bottle left over from Christmas).
As the garlic and onion sautéed, my family wandered in, and watched as I (very carefully) poured the vodka into the pan. Magically, 25 minutes later, an al dente pasta dish with the tastiest, silkiest sauce was served. Everyone loved it so much, I’ve made it every week since.
- Large saute pan
- High-speed blender, immersion blender or food processor
- 1 pound gluten-free penne, such as Jovial Brown Rice Penne
- 3 tbsp soy-free, nut-free vegan butter, such as Soy-Free Earth Balance
- 1 small Vidalia onion, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup gluten-free vodka, such as Chopin or Boyd and Blair
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- ⅔ cup unsweetened coconut milk (try to use mostly the hardened part that collects at the top of the can)
- Prepare the pasta per package instructions, then strain.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vodka sauce: Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and tender but not brown.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Turn the heat down a bit and very carefully pour the vodka slowly into the center of the pan and stir slowly and carefully to incorporate (make sure not to splash any of the vodka onto the stove or sides of the pan, it's flammable!)
- Cook for about 1 minute, stirring slowly and constantly, until most of vodka is evaporated.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and hot pepper flakes and stir to coat the onions and garlic.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, stir and cook for about 2 minutes
- Carefully transfer the sauce to a high-speed blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.
- Pour the sauce back into the saute pan and add the coconut cream, stirring until it's incorporated into the sauce.
- Taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper if desired.
- Add cooked gluten-free penne to the pan with the sauce and stir until the penne is entirely coated with the sauce.
- Serve hot – delicious!