This sauce definitely has a kick! It’s really yummy too. I was afraid of tasting the vodka, so I cooked the alcohol down a little longer than the recipe said. I used this as a dipping sauce for homemade calzones because the idea of penne alla vodka sounded too boring to me. =P Jacob enjoyed it with pasta while I was working. It is creamy and sugar and I loved the fresh basil. I actually forgot the tomato paste, so my sauce didn’t get thick enough to need pasta water.
Pasta alla Vodka
Meanwhile, divide the tomatoes in half. Add half to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Coarsely chop the remaining tomatoes, discarding the seeds. Combine the puree and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup. Add in enough of the reserved tomato liquid so that you have about 2 cups.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to the heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, about 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently and lower the heat if the simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in the cream and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. (Take care not to cook the cream too long or the sauce will separate).
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.