Although this dish, now listed on countless Italian restaurant menus, has a certain novelty, it takes just one bite to discover how successful the combination is. This version comes from Le Sirenuse, in Positano, Italy.
Melt butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in vodka, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 4 minutes. Add tomato puree and cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ham, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Keep sauce warm over very low heat. Cook pasta in 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt per every 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain pasta. Add pasta to sauce and toss with sauce and cheese, adding some of reserved cooking water if pasta seems dry.
Recipe courtesy of The Gourmet Cookbook, Conde Nast Publications, 2004