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penne alla vodka
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Servings: 6


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Step 1

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate 2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1/2 packed cup), or measure out 1/2 cup store-bought grated. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion (1 1/2 cups) and 3 garlic cloves. Start cooking the sauce.

Step 2

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to turn golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Add 1/3 cup tomato paste and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Step 3

Add 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes and its juices, 1/2 cup vodka, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, break up the tomatoes into small bits. Bring to a simmer.

Step 4

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1 pound penne pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until just al dente, 9 to 11 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain. Meanwhile, pick the leaves from 4 fresh basil sprigs and thinly slice.

Step 5

Scrape the sauce into a blender. Blend until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and pulse until just combined, about 10 (1-second) pulses. (Alternatively, blend the sauce directly in the skillet with an immersion blender, then add the cream and stir until just combined.)

Step 6

Return the sauce to the skillet. Add the pasta, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until the penne is coated with sauce, about 4 minutes. Add more pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed if the sauce is too thick.

Step 7

Turn off the heat. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Serve topped with the basil, more grated Parmesan cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper or red pepper flakes if desired.