Skillet Penne ala Vodka

Tender penne pasta, basking in a rich and creamy tomato sauce (spiked with vodka and dotted with crushed red pepper flakes). And the pasta is cooked in the sauce, making it more flavorful than any pasta you've ever tried before. Nothing watered down here.
The creamy sauce seems decadent and rich, but it's mostly tomato sauce with hints of sweet cream and salty cheese. The red pepper flakes add the perfect amount of heat - which is quickly mellowed on the palate by the creamy sauce. It's an evolution of flavors, bite after memorable bite.

Why the vodka? Not just for martinis (or screwdrivers), vodka acts as a solvent and brings out specific flavors in tomatoes that aren't released in water or fat; this simple addition brings the dish to an entirely new level.

Skillet Penne ala Vodka

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vodka of choice
2 cups tomato sauce (or one 15-ounce can)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more if desired
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups uncooked penne pasta
2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Fresh basil leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the vodka and cook for 1 minute (this allows the alcohol to cook off). Add the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, oregano, and onion powder and bring to a simmer.
Add the water and pasta and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and simmer for 1 minute to heat through.
Serve with fresh basil leaves and extra grated cheese sprinkled over top.
Serves 4