Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta with golden mushrooms and ribbons of kale tossed in vegan vodka sauce. This healthy weeknight pasta recipe is perfect for easy fall dinners, and sure to become a family favorite.
The Best Pumpkin alla Vodka Recipe:
This luscious vodka sauce is miles ahead of anything you may find jarred in the pasta aisle. Pumpkin puree and coconut milk lend luxurious creaminess while keeping it completely plant-based. A dash of nutmeg adds sweet spice to the amplify the fall flavor and bring out the essence of pumpkin.
You could choose to keep the sauce unembellished, however I love adding veggies for extra oomph. For this recipe, golden mushrooms and ribbons of kale are hearty, earthy compliments to the brightly acidic sauce. Alternatively, you could add sautéed spinach, chard, or arugula to power up the nutrient ante.
How to Make Vegan Vodka Sauce:
Classic vodka sauce calls for heavy cream and Parmesan, however this version uses canned coconut milk to achieve rich creaminess. Coconut milk is very mild in flavor, so you don’t have to worry about tasting any actual coconut in the sauce. In order to keep the classic umami-laden flavor, this recipe also calls for tomato paste. Not only does tomato paste add color, body, and bright acidity, but it also ups the savoriness and complexity factor. The trick, however, is to cook the paste until it turns brick red in color. Allowing it to caramelize takes away the raw tomato flavor, therefore unlocking its full flavor potential.
What sets this vodka sauce apart is the addition of pumpkin puree. While canned pumpkin tends to be associated with sweeter dishes, this sauce will turn you into a savory pumpkin convert. Since canned pumpkin is unsweetened, it’s simply adding bright vegetal flavor, body, and a slew of nutrients, including fiber and beta-carotene. The addition of nutmeg is what adds flavor that is decidedly fall and perfect for seasonal entertaining.
Does Vodka Sauce have Alcohol in it?
In short, yes–classic vodka sauce calls for vodka because the alcohol creates a brighter, creamier, more cohesive sauce. The trick is to make sure to cook the vodka for a full minute to evaporite the harsh booziness. Once those flavors dissipate, the vodka creates a nicely balanced sauce that packs a bit more heat and bright aroma.
However, if you prefer a nonalcoholic version, you can replace the vodka with chicken, beef, or vegetable broth. The flavor won’t quite be the same (and it won’t technically be a vodka sauce at that point), but do what works for you!
What Kind of Pasta Goes with Vodka Sauce?
In short, any pasta you like or have on hand! The classic pasta shapes for vodka sauce are penne and rigatoni, however I also love it with bucatini and linguine. It’s also fun to use a spiral shape like cavatappi or fusilli so the sauce can fill every nook and cranny of the noodle.
If you’re looking for a more nutrient-dense alternative to durum wheat pasta, I recommend either chickpea pasta (I love Banza brand!), or strands of spaghetti squash.This recipe is a quick, filling one-dish entree loaded with fiber and essential nutrients. Give it a try this week and be sure to tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations!
Other Easy Pasta Dinner Recipes:
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
- 4 oz. tomato paste
- ½ cup vodka
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- ¾ cup canned coconut milk
- 1 lb. dry rigatoni pasta (or paste shape of choice)
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (omit if making plant-based, or use nutritional yeast)
- Fill a stock pot with water and heat over high. Season liberally with salt and bring to a boil while you prep other ingredients.
- Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven or large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Arrange mushrooms in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until bottom side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Toss and continue cooking 2 to 3 more minutes, until softened. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and onion to pan. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and stir to evenly coat onion. Continue to cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Add vodka to deglaze pan, stirring to scrape up browned bits of tomato paste. Cook 1 minute to allow some of the alcohol to cook off.
- Stir in pumpkin puree, coconut milk, and sautéed mushrooms; reduce heat to low.
- Once pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook until almost al dente. Add kale during final minute of cooking.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked pasta and kale to skillet with vodka sauce. Stir in pasta cooking water in ½ cup increments until sauce turns smooth and glossy and coats each piece of pasta (I used 1 cup total). Stir in fresh thyme leaves and garnish with Parmesan, if desired.