White Bean and Vodka Pasta

I have been reading Tasty Food Photography from Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum, and had to smile at the sections on ‘light scraping’ (i.e. side lighting).   I was pleased that low angle lighting was a technique that she recommended practicing and cultivating since Alaska summers are all about low angle natural light.    Look at the shadow from the table on the lawn, or even funnier, the tines of the fork on the table!  This photo was taken at 7:30 pm in late July, so it’s not a midnight sun light angle, or even an almost-winter sun angle.  This is the high summer, dinner time, long shadow light of latitude 61.


Clearly I’ve got a ways to go on my photography, but available side light until midnight?  No problem.  Taking photos without a foot or thumb visible?  Still working on that.  I guess we all have to start somewhere.


Lindsay’s book is a great resource for photo editing and seems to have just the right mix of technical and user friendly detail.  She’s got multiple versions of the same photo along the editing process, taking the photo from great to cover-worthy. As winter approaches and indoor lighting becomes a must, it seems that I’ll have to get up close and personal with PhotoShop, and specifically the white balance editor.  Hopefully I will have at least mastered my friend the cropping tool by then.  That is, unless Crocs wants to sponsor some posts.  Could happen, right?

Another thing that could happen is this hearty weeknight dish, ready in less than 30 minutes.  This has been a staple at our house for years.  It made the transition from a vegetarian favorite in an omnivorous house, to an occasional meaty dish in the same omnivorous abode, before landing in its current vegan state.   You gotta love a dish that will grow with you.

This vegan version is all about pantry staples: pasta, tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned beans and coconut milk.  I almost always have onions around, so if I’m really in a rush, all I need to do is grab some fresh basil at the store, and I know dinner will be ready in a short amount of time, a minimum of fuss and always with rave reviews.  Now if only I could say the same thing about those photos!

[recipe title=”White Bean and Vodka Pasta” servings=”6″ time=”30 minutes” difficulty=”easy”]

2 medium onions, diced
2 medium zucchini, grilled or roasted then diced (optional)
4-5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 cup vodka
1 (28 ouces) can diced tomatoes
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a 15 ounce can of full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Pasta noodles, prepared according to package directions, or a large, roasted spaghetti squash

Saute onions in a wide, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, adding water as needed to prevent sticking.  When onions start to caramelize (5-7 minutes), add pressed garlic and saute another 30 seconds.  Off heat and add 1 cup of vodka.  Return pan to medium heat and cook until only about 1/3 of the vodka remains.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and cannellini beans, bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add coconut milk and roasted zucchini if using.  Allow to heat through, then off heat and add shredded basil.  Serve over pasta or roasted spaghetti squash.


  • The reason for pre-roasting or grilling the zucchini is that when I have added it in with the onions it tends to absorb a lot of the vodka when added, making them somewhat bitter rather than charred and sweet.
  • If you want to use a spaghetti squash, which is highly recommended, then it’s best to roast it whole the day before.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pierce the squash all over with the tines of a fork.  Roast for 40 minutes and then roll to opposite side and roast another 40 minutes, for a total roasting time of 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Allow to cool.  You can either halve, and gently scoop out seeds at this point, or leave it whole until the following day when you plan to use it.   Once squash has been seeded, scrape remaining flesh out in long spaghetti strands.  Reheat the next day in the microwave or in a covered roasting pan for about 30 minutes (perhaps while roasting the additional zucchini!)


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