If you’re craving a comforting bowl of pasta but don’t have a lot of time to cook, this is a great weeknight recipe for you. It’s creamy (without dairy), flavorful, and oh so satisfying. Pasta alla vodka is usually made with heavy cream but I’ve been playing around with subbing in white beans blended with broth for lots of creamy recipes, like my pasta fagioli, and it does the trick 90% off the time.
I can’t use coconut milk, unfortunately, because Anel is allergic to coconut, but if you want to skip the dairy, that could be another good option for this dish. There is butter in this recipe but if you want to go full-on dairy, free you could substitute in more olive oil at the end.
Timing-wise, I love that you can pop in store-bought pesto to save some time and get this dish on the table in 20-30 minutes. For an even healthier twist, use Banza or another low-carb, protein-packed pasta.
This recipe was inspired by Half Baked Harvest’s Spicy Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka. Her version is not dairy-free but looks incredible!
Pesto Pasta alla Vodka
– 1/4 cup, olive oil
– 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
– 1 shallot, finely chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tsp dried oregano
– 1 tsp, crushed red pepper flakes (optional, only if you want it spicy!)
– 1/2 cup, tomato paste
– 1 14oz can, crushed tomatoes
– 1/4 cup vodka
– 3/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought (I used my favorite dairy-free pesto recipe)
– Salt and black pepper to taste
– 1 14oz can, cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
– 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
– 1 box pasta of your choice (I like penne or rigatoni for this)
– 1 cup pasta cooking water (don’t forget to save it!)
– 3 tbsp, salted butter (or olive oil if you want 100% dairy free)
– 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional), plus more for serving
– 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, shallot, and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for another minute.
2. While the onions are cooking, blend the beans with the chicken broth and set aside. I also cook the pasta (salted and according to package instructions) while the sauce is cooking to save time. Be sure to save 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain it.
3. Reduce heat to low, add tomato paste, oregano, and (optional) red pepper flakes. Cook 4-5 minutes until thickened.
4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and vodka and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add in the pesto and bean/broth mix, and give it a good stir. Cook for another minute or two.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Once pasta is cooked, add the pasta, 1/2 of the pasta water you saved, and the butter. Toss it all with tongs until the butter has melted. If it feels too thick, use the rest of the pasta water. It really depends on your preference.
7. Stir in the Parm and basil.
8. Garnish with a dab of pesto, more basil leaves, and some grated parm.
Photo by Julia Dags.