BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Alone in the Kitchen

39 Comments

Eating alone is one thing- The act of scarfing down a sloppy assemblage of discordant ingredients while on the run, a quiet moment stolen away from a hectic schedule, shared only with a soothing bowl of soup and sandwich- Just a small, acceptable aspect of the modern world we must make peace with. Whether these meals are a respite or a terribly lonely hour are all in the eye of the beholder, or should I say, mouth of the eater. Cooking alone, in my opinion is an entirely different subject though. When you make the conscious effort to cook something from scratch, taking into consideration exactly what you want to feed yourself with, it’s a far more meditative, nourishing experience than merely grabbing a solo bite between meetings.

It looks different for everyone, but eating alone for me means a bowl of cereal for dinner or reheated leftovers. Cooking alone, at least in the winter, means rich curries packed full of vegetables, hearty soups enriched with miso and nutritional yeast (vegan catnip, from my point of view), or red sauce, enriched with thick, creamy coconut milk and vodka.

A perfectly balanced dinner, it is not, but sometimes it’s the less healthy option that’s better for your soul. Rather than mope over previously picked over scraps, while away the night time hours by myself, I poured myself into making a simple vodka sauce, tending the pot while listening to music and allowing the savory scent of stewed tomatoes fill the entire house. Smooth, with a few chunks of diced tomatoes for a more satisfying texture, vodka sauce is a favorite that isn’t indulged in very often around here. More than anything else, this recipe is an effort in self-editing. Resist the urge to throw in garlic (Yes, must fight the temptation, at least the first time you try it!), keep the fancy herbs at bay, and stick to the basics. Time is the best seasoning in this case, so approach this sauce with plenty of patience in stock. Top it all off with a fine chiffonade of fresh basil if you absolutely must, but that’s it!

Pasta, that simple, starchy comfort food, naturally makes the best sort of base. Go for something tube-shaped to catch and hold on to all that creamy crimson goodness, and if you must pretend like you’re eating healthily, go ahead and toss in some chickpeas or baked tofu for protein.

With the scent of my carefully tended vodka sauce wrapping around me like a thick, soft blanket on a cold night, just like that, I didn’t feel so alone when it came time to eat.

Coconut Vodka Sauce

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Large Onion, Finely Minced
1 Cup Vodka
2 28-Ounce Cans Diced Tomatoes
1 14-Ounce Can Full-Fat Coconut Milk
Salt and Pepper, to Taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion in the melted coconut oil until softened and just beginning to take on a brown color. De-glaze with the vodka, stir well, and let cook for 10 minutes. Mix in canned tomatoes, juice and all, and bring the mixture up to a rapid bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low to keep the sauce at a steady, low simmer, and cook for another 30 minutes. Pour in coconut milk and cook for a final 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, but be generous with both. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender and puree, or hit it with the immersion blender until it reaches your desired consistency. Be sure to leave it slightly chunky.

Serve while hot, or store in an air-tight container in the fridge after cooling, for up to a week.

Makes About 2 Quarts

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

39 thoughts on “Alone in the Kitchen

  1. Oh I totally agree with this! When I take the time to cook for myself, I eat a lot slower and enjoy it a lot more. But when I just throw together a sandwich, I tend to scarf it down and move on. Pasta sauce looks great!

  2. I will have to make this for my mother! She loves vodka sauce. Can you taste the coconut or is it only noticeable as a creaminess in the sauce?

    • The coconut flavor is surprisingly subtle, considering how much of it goes into this sauce. If you didn’t tell someone that there was coconut in it, I’m betting that most wouldn’t be able to tell. Hope you and your mom both approve! :)

  3. Just being in my kitchen is therapeutic for me, alone is the only way I can process through a new creation, but being with a friend in the kitchen with a fist full of tried and true recipes fills my friendship cup. I like the coconut oil and coconut milk in your sauce–so good for you! Thanks for sharing your recipe and a little window into your life.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this….I bet making it would be even more enjoyable!!

  5. Time to head to the liquor store to get me some vodka. ;-)

    What a fantastic recipe, Hannah. It’s true: sometimes you gotta let the healthy habits slide or, heck, just have a salad for lunch and indulge in this for dinner. It all balances out, right? I’m not scandalised by the lack of veggies, if only ’cause the Italian dinner paradigm consists of pasta AND bread. I wonder what my Nonna would think of a vodka sauce, though… (My Nonno would LOVE it.)

  6. Thanks! I am literally making this tonight. I love a simple tasty meal. And vodka too? Bonus. I will serve this with some baked tofu as you suggested, and a salad. I would say it’s healthy! The best thing my husband can do for me is occupy the kids while I am cooking. I too like to put on some music and “meditate.” Doesn’t often happen, but here’s hoping.

  7. I love the simplicity of the sauce–perfect for meditative cooking. And is there anything that coconut milk can’t do?

  8. Sometimes I find I’m the most creative in the kitchen when I’m cooking alone – there’s no rush to finish so others aren’t hungry, it’s okay if it doesn’t turn out (I’ll be the only one disappointed), and I get enjoy all the yummy goodness if it’s a success. This vodka sounds simple and delicious – I’m impressed with your restraint on the garlic, I’m not sure I’ll be quite as disciplined. :)

  9. So beautifully written, Hannah!

  10. This sounds amazing. I love pasta dishes, this looks beautiful and healthy. Thanks for all your tips about my puppy. And I’m glad to have the warning! :)

  11. That looks so good. A friend who has her adult son living with her rarely cooks for the two of them. She doesn’t get that I enjoy cooking for myself and making it from scratch.

    Now to see if I have any vodka in the house!

  12. Gosh, I have wanted to try penne vodka for so, so, long – but I just can’t bear to not drink the vodka!!! ;). The coconut oil sounds like it would make this absolutely delicious. And a great photo!

  13. This looks incredibly satisfying and so simple. I really enjoy eating by myself even in restaurants. I used to travel alone for my job a lot and really looked forward to eating out in restaurants on my own. It’s very peaceful. And as already mentioned, cooking alone is therapeutic for me as well.

  14. Thank you for sharing. I love the photograph. The sauce sounds great, but I hate vodka. Can you taste the vodka when you are eating it. Would it taste as good omitting the vodka?

    • The vodka does add a subtle flavor, and more importantly, it releases a flavor compounds from the tomatoes that only alcohol-soluble, which makes them taste even richer and deeper than plain tomatoes. Technically, you could replace the vodka with vegetable broth, but you would end up with an entirely different sauce.

  15. Excellent recipe, I’ve been looking to make a rich and creamy vodka sauce for some time now. I can’t wait to enjoy the delicate, simple flavors!

  16. Oh Hannah, absolutely. I’ve got into the terrible habit of just snacking for hours on end every night, and really need to remind myself how beautiful, nourishing, and happy-making it can be to spend the night-time hours alone preparing something slowly, rather than just mindlessly eating a million tiny things to keep busy. Thank you for this recipe; vodka sauce isn’t something I’d even heard of before I studied at UVA, and I’ve still never tried it. Soon. And take care of yourself, my dear! xo

  17. You make such a good point! I don’t like eating alone (grabbing whatever I can find to eat just so I’m not hungry anyone!), but cooking alone I can handle. Your sauce sounds fantastic, I love the coconut element.

  18. Oh Hannah, I love this sauce! I made it last night and it was delicious. You’re right, it requires some patience to allow it to simmer, but that also gave me time to prepare some tofu baked with gluten-free teriyaki sauce and some broccoli with garlic and olive oil. I also had most of the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned before it was ready. Oh, and my husband occupied the kids like I had hoped!

  19. mmmm the coconut milk in a red sauce sounds so intriguing!

  20. It looks really great, and usually I am not found of pasta pictures, that sometimes may look gross or not really aesthetic. But once again (I should not be surprised anymore) you did a nice job !
    I wonder what it tastes like, I know that we have a pasta restaurant chain in France that offers this dressing, but not sure about its veganicity. Unfortunately we do not have vodka here (I may want to check out though), but I need to think about sneaking some from some one I know and try to make your recipe ! Maybe during summer when it will be tomato time, although here you suggest canned ones)

    I have to say that sometimes I am lazy and do not want to cook for myself, as I always do. I am obviously far from making nice little things as I publish on my website.

    Last look at the picture, it looks like Italia, sun and warmth …. <3

    • Vodka sauce is never vegan unless explicitly stated, sadly; it’s typically based upon heavy cream. I’m surprised it’s not more common in France, though! Considering how rich it is, I guess it’s probably more of an American adaptation of Italian red sauce, but I can’t say for sure.

      Vodka is really key to the flavor, but in a pinch, you could probably use white wine instead… I’d be curious to see how that turns out if you try!

  21. I’ve wanted to try vodka sauce for a while but have yet to try it. This coconut version sounds really good! Interesting that you used 1/2 cup coconut oil.

  22. Coconut vodka sauce?!? I can’t wait to try this recipe :D

  23. I eat alone all the time, but it’s usually a very slow, drawn out, appreciative process. I just love food too much to gobble it down without a thought! This vodka sauce sounds amazing! I love the coconutty twist!

  24. That sounds pretty awesome that vodka sauce! I actually like to cook alone once in a while as my guy is not so much into strong cheeses so it always gives me the excuse to make something different…;)

  25. As a vegan college student, i feel like this post should be entitled “Drunk in the Kitchen” because most of my meals are eaten alone, or in the company of my omnivorous friends–therefore they have to be healthy! When I’m drinking on the other hand… :)

  26. looks delicious! I’ve never thought of putting coconut milk in a savory pasta sauce before. This is so innovative and I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the recipe share!

  27. You don’t know how much I love the words “Full-fat.”

  28. I really loved how you described how your meal was like a comfortable blanket. Whether alone or at a huge banquet with many…food does give a person a feeling of warmth and comfort that few other things in life can. Your meal sounds delicious.

  29. Oh Hannah, this sauce sounds and looks delicious…like the coconut milk and the vodka…looks perfect for a weeknight dinner., very comforting dish!
    Beautiful picture as always…hope you are having a wonderful week :)

  30. Coconut milk in a vodka red sauce!? Brilliant!!

  31. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of making my own vodka sauce until seeing this post, but it’s a great idea. Pasta with tomato sauce does seem to be the one meal we sometimes make that has very little protein. I’m sure that’s fine once in a while. We get vodka sauce from Trader Joe’s– I don’t think the TJ’s vodka sauce has cream in it: if it does it must not be much. I’m curious to try your sauce with the coconut milk!

  32. Interesting. My standard vodka sauce actually omits onions and replaces them with garlic! Simple recipes with honest handling of the ingredients are actually what I seek out when preparing meals for stolen moments so this recipe definitely appeals to me. I’ll need to try this version of it. I’ve recently become a vegan after being vegetarian for 10+ years and was looking to find an alternative recipe that doesn’t include cream. Your post has made that possible. Thank you!

  33. Oh my goodness this looks amazing. My coconut obsession definitely agrees with this recipe !!

  34. Having just gone dairy-free, I thought I had to swear off vodka sauce but this looks incredible! I’m not good at cooking for one, though (I always want to share the deliciousness) so I’ll make enough for my partner to share.

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