You can make this two ways, one going gung-ho and opt for the cream, or you can save calories and use whole or skim milk. You won't get the richness that comes from the cream but it isn't bad at all. You can also add meat to this sauce, not technically a Vodka Cream Sauce, but it adds some protein.
Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce
1/2 box whole wheat Penne Rigate
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and Pepper (about 1 tsp each)
1/2 cup vodka
2 bay leaves
1-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp marjoram (optional)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste (small can)
2 tsp sugar (optional, depending on taste)
1/2 cup cream or milk
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
chiffonade of 7 basil leaves
Parmesan cheese for dusting afterwards
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the bay leaves and the dried herbs through the marjoram and stir to combine. Continue to saute the onion till translucent and add the vodka. Let some of the alcohol evaporate for a few minutes and then add the tomato sauce and paste, stir to combine. Add some water if the sauce it too think. Continue to cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Taste after 20 minutes and adjust for seasoning, add sugar at this point if necessary.
Meanwhile boil pasta water and cook pasta till al dente. Add pasta just before it's fully cooked to the sauce and continue to cook the pasta in the sauce. Once the pasta is cooked, add the cream/milk along with the fresh herbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
*If you don't feel like making your own tomato sauce, you can use store bought sauce and doctor it up a bit with some seasoning. In a saute pan, add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Add the vodka and let some of the alcohol evaporate. Add the cooked pasta with a bit (1/2 cup) of the cooking liquid and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce. At the very last moment, add the cream/milk and toss to combine. Garnish with the fresh herbs and cheese.