Vegetarian Penne Ala Vodka With Cauliflower

This recipe came to me on a whim. We had a head of cauliflower that needed to be used and a light bulb went off. I decided to make my favorite vodka sauce recipe sans the usual meat and use Cauliflower instead. I knew the cauliflower would add a delicious layer of flavor and texture. Sautéed, I knew it would almost have a cheese like flavor. It worked out just how I imagined. This Vegetarian Penne Ala Vodka with Cauliflower will be your new favorite for meatless Monday.

cauliflower, penne, vodka sauce
Creamy Penne with Vodka Sauce made with Cauliflower

The Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of Penne Pasta
  • 1 24 oz Can or Bottle of Tomato Pureé
  • 1.5 C of Heavy Cream
  • 1 Medium Onion Diced
  • 1 Head of Cauliflower, Minced by hand or put through a food processor until it is “riced”.
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, Rough Chopped
  • 1 Small jar of Marinated artichoke hearts. I use the quartered ones that are about 1/4 of a cup. You can add more if you like.
  • 2 C of Parmesan Cheese + some extra for garnish
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 5 to 6 Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 4 to 5 T of Minced Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1.5 Sticks of Butter
  • 1 C of Vodka

The most important step for this dish is getting your cauliflower minced up really small. You can do this by hand with a sharp chef knife or you can put it through the food processor like I did until it is a rice like consistency. It doesn’t matter if the cauliflower is wet, but if there is an excess amount of water, drain some of the water before adding it to the recipe.

The recipe is as follows:

  • In a deep skillet, I used cast iron, add 1 stick of butter to a hot pan. Then add your onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft.
  • Add in your cauliflower and stir fry with the garlic and onions and add in 1 t of nutmeg.
  • When the cauliflower has some browning to it, add in your tomato purée. Bring the sauce to a simmer then add in your vodka and artichokes with the marinade.
  • Add in the 1 T of sugar and salt to taste.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*You may have missed some chunks of cauliflower while processing it, after it has cooked in the sauce for 30 minutes you can use your spatula to break it up smaller.

  • After 30 minutes, add in your fresh basil and minced parsley and give the mixture a few good stirs.
  • Begin cooking your pasta according to package directions.
  • Add in the heavy cream to the sauce and incorporate it well. The mixture should be a pinkish red color. You can add as much or as little cream as you prefer.
  • When the pasta is nearly cooked, slowly add in the parmesan cheese to the sauce and combine well. At this point you may want to add in a ladle or two of the pasta water to get the sauce to the desired thickness you prefer. I added in one ladle.
  • Drain your pasta, remove the sauce from the heat and add in the 1/2 stick of butter and stir until melted.

Serve the pasta tossed with the sauce or serve with the sauce on top. I like to top the pasta with more parmesan cheese and a hefty pinch of black pepper. This pasta is so rich and decadent. It makes a great Sunday dinner and the leftovers are perfect for lunch or a second dinner.


I attached a video tutorial of me making this dish if you need some visual help making this recipe.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. For another great recipe, check out my recipe for this Summer Pasta.