Penne a la Vodka

Serves 4


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat of a large knife
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes in juice, pureed in a food processor
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces penne
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons evaporated non-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the penne.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 teaspoons oil with the garlic over low heat until the garlic begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 more minutes. Add the tomato, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer very gently 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and evaporated milk and simmer 1 more minute.
  3. Meanwhile, after the sauce has cooked 10 minutes, add the penne to the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the drained penne to the saucepan and simmer until the penne is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if the mixture is dry. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the basil, and black pepper.
  4. To serve, divide pasta between 4 serving bowls. Drizzle each serving with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.