Just 20 minutes to prepare, and only 10 ingredients! This pasta is rich, creamy, and oh so delicious. It can be made fresh, or the sauce can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for later. The perfect simple pasta dish for a fancy night in.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to package directions.
Melt the vegan butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion turns translucent and just begins to brown. Add the crushed tomatoes, vodka, salt, and red pepper flakes. (I like my penne to be spicy so I add ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes but feel free to reduce or omit them).
Partially cover the pan with a lid or use a splatter screen to help prevent tomato sauce from splattering everywhere. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium-low heat for 10 - 15 minutes until the sauce is cooked through.
To make the cashew cream: If you do not have a high-powered blender, you will need to first boil the cashews. If you do have a high-powered blender, skip to the next step. To boil the cashews, cover the cashews with water and bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until the cashews are very tender. Drain and rinse with cold water before using. Boiling the cashews ensure they blender smoothly.
Add the cashews (boiled or unboiled) and ½ cup water to a blender, and blend until completely smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Set aside.
To finish the pasta, when the tomato sauce is cooked, pour the cashew cream into the sauce and stir to combine. Add the cooked penne and toss well. Serve and garnish with basil.
Cashew cream: cashew cream is easy to make, but these days there are also store-bought vegan creams available. Feel free to sub the homemade cashew cream with 1 cup store-bought plant-based creamer or 1 cup full-fat coconut milk. Alternatively, you could also substitute the cashews for equal amounts of softened blanched almonds, softened raw sunflower seeds, or macadamia nuts.Oil-free: to make oil-free simply omit the vegan butter and do a water or broth sauté instead.Make-ahead/freeze: you can prepare the sauce ahead of time, allow to cool then store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer. Warm the sauce and then toss with freshly cooked pasta.