Penne alla Vodka

Source: Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich
adapted by http://theresalwaysthyme.blogspot.com/

salt
One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
1 pound penne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled (I use a lot less, maybe 2-3)
crushed hot red pepper (to taste) (I used about 2 pinches)
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream (I use less, a bout 1/3)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. (Longer processing will aerate the tomatoes, turning them pink.)

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully (they'll splatter) slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season with salt and with crushed red pepper to taste (you can always add more it needed!) and boil about 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

Just before the pasta is done, take the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream. Add the 2 tablespoons butter or oil, if using, and carefully swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, take the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer or a small strainer and drop it carefully into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, serve with additional cheese if you like.

My note - Sometimes I add a little pancetta or prosciutto, about 1/4 lb. sliced thin and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, to the sauce. Saute it with the garlic.
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