Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

One of the Best Dishes Ever. Tender pasta, basking in a lively vodka-and-herb-spiked tomato sauce. A hint of cream turns that zesty blend into a smooth, balanced sauce that lingers on your palate for a delicious length of time. Oh, and this glorious feast is healthy too!

 WHAT?! How is a "cream sauce" healthy? The tomato-and-herb-based sauce is mostly that  - tomatoes and herbs. Added just before serving (to add creaminess and a buttery mouthfeel), is 1/2 cup of fat-free half and half. Yes, "fat free". Even though the fat's been removed, the half and half still lends a richness that mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes and creates a luxurious, decadent-seeming sauce for the pasta.
Yes, there's cheese too. But it's just 1/2 cup and it's part-skim mozzarella! Adding protein (from dairy) gives the dish heft and ensures you'll be completely satiated (thus, not craving chips at 10 PM).

And choose your favorite pasta! I chose mini-penne, but any pasta shape works here!

Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

12 ounces penne pasta, or any pasta shape of choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup vodka of choice
2 cups tomato sauce, from a carton or can
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or more if desired
Chopped fresh parsley for serving
Grated parmesan cheese for serving
Crushed red pepper flakes for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and cover with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, until soft. Add the vodka and cook until it reduces by half. Add the tomato sauce, oregano, and basil and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the half and half and cook for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir in the cooked pasta and cook for 1 minute to heat through. Top with mozzarella cheese, cover and remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese melts.
Top with the parsley and serve with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on the side.
Serves 4