Bring a large pot of salted water (around 2 tablespoons kosher salt) to a rolling boil. Cook the penne for 2 minutes less than recommended on the package instructions (it will finish cooking in the sauce). Drain and then rinse in cold water to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, set a Dutch oven, saucepan or flat-sided skillet over medium-low heat (ideally you want to use a pot with a heavy-bottom). Add enough olive oil to create a thin coating on the bottom of the pan, then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent and starting to lightly brown. Turn heat down to low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka (away from any flames if you have a gas burner). Return the pan to the heat, and cook on medium-low until the liquid is reduced by around half, 3-5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Once the mixture begins bubbling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently (gently scrape the spatula on the bottom of the pot to make sure nothing burns). Don’t rush this step; you want to cook the canned flavor out of the tomatoes.
Add in the pasta, stirring to coat with the sauce. Simmer and stir for 1-3 more minutes, or until the penne is al dente. Add the cream and stir until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and more chopped parsley. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and enjoy within 3-4 days.
You can use canned diced or whole peeled tomatoes (with the liquid) to add more texture. Crushed tomatoes will give you a smooth sauce similar to bottled vodka sauces, but many versions of Penne alla Vodka have texture from tomatoes.If you use whole or diced tomatoes, I recommend pureeing around 1/3 to 1/2 of the sauce in a blender or food processor before adding the pasta. This will help the sauce coat the penne while still retaining texture. If you use whole peeled tomatoes, use a potato masher to gently crush them immediately after adding to the pan.I like Tito’s vodka. However, any brand will work.Serving Suggestions: Looking for a side dish to serve alongside this pasta recipe? Try my roasted broccoli or strawberry spinach salad!