A Cook's Plot

Vegetarian & Vegan

Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce

I used some homemade tomato sauce (frozen last summer, when I had a glut of tomatoes) but a can of tomatoes is what the recipe originally called for and that works well too. Also, the book’s recipe uses basil, but as that’s not in season at the moment I used parsley - still delicious.

The recipe here is adapted from ‘Penne Vodka’ in the book (as regular readers of my blog will know, I’m completely incapable of following anyone else’s recipe to the letter!). Vodka is actually a key ingredient here - although ostensibly flavourless, when the alcohol is cooked off it works a little like salt in that it magically accentuates the other flavours in the dish. I’ve tried leaving the vodka out and you can really taste the difference. (If you happen to have some Japanese sake, this will work in the same way.)

I’m pleased to see the author agrees with me that, for some dishes, slicing garlic is better than crushing it - it means you get little hits of its flavour in the finished dish rather than it melding into the overall taste.

If you’ve never cooked vegan before, this would be a really good dish to start with. More to follow soon - I’m looking forward to trying some of Isa’s ideas for tofu, which I’ve never really enjoyed eating before so it will be interesting to see if she can convert me! And I’ll be trying out a recipe using the cashew nut trick in a salad dressing soon too.


Serves 4-6

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Can of plum tomatoes
  • half tsp chilli flakes
  • 120ml vodka
  • 60g whole unroasted cashew nuts
  • 120ml vegetable stock (as ever, I used Knorr Stockpot)
  • handful fresh parsley (or basil), chopped


Gently fry the onions with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent, and add the garlic for the last minute or so. Add the tomatoes and chilli flakes with some black pepper, stir and heat through then add the vodka. Bring to the boil for a minute then turn down to a low simmer for 5 mins.

Put the cashews and stock in a high-speed blender or smoothie maker and whizz for about a minute until completely smooth. Stir into the tomatoes with half the parsley or basil and heat through.

Check to see if you need more salt (the stock may have added enough already) and serve with penne pasta, scattered with the remaining parsley.

My Latest Recipes