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Tomato-Creme Penne with Vodka

This dish, officially known as Penne alla Vodka, is a staple on the menus of many posh Italian restaurants. The rosé sauce, however, is traditionally made with a cream, which can taste extremely rich and make you feel a bit queasy afterwards. This version solves the richeness dilemma by substituting evaporated milk for cream.

Serves 4-6

Two 28-oz (796-mL) cans of peeled whole tomatoes, drained
2 cups (500 mL) of 2% evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. (15 mL) of olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp. (5 mL) salt
1 tsp. (5 mL) basil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) oregano
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) vodka
1 lb. (450g) dried penne
Some freshly ground black pepper

Purée the tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the evaporated milk and blend until combined.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or wok. Either way, make sure it's large enough to hold the tomato mixture. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two, don't let the garlic brown. Add the tomato mixture and simmer, stirring occasinally. Don't be concerned if the sauce turns a bit foamy, this will disappear as it thickens. If the sauce starts to sputter, turn down the heat.

After about 15 minutes of simmering, add the salt, basil and oregano, crushing them between your fingers as you add them to bring out the flavors. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the penne to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, the sauce will have turned orange and should have reduced by about half. If it has not reduced this much, continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the vodka and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Ladle over the penne in shallow bowls.