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Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Shrimp

It pays to perfect the classics. Pasta with vodka sauce is an easy dish that is both simple and sumptuous. Adding quick shrimp scampi elevates it to a perfect meal for a date night.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

1 small to medium onion

EVOO 

4 tablespoons butter 

3 large cloves garlic 

Salt 

1 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste OR 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1 cup vodka 

1 can (28 ounces) Italian crushed tomatoes 

A few leaves of basil, torn, plus a few to serve 

1 pound penne rigate pasta

1 pound large raw shrimp, deveined and tails removed 

1 lemon 

1/4 cup Pernod or white vermouth 

A handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 

1 cup heavy cream 

A handful freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus some to pass at table, optional ( -- and controversial to some Italians) 

Directions

  1. Place a large pot of water on the stove for pasta. Also put up a deep skillet for sauce and a nonstick skillet for shrimp.
  2. Gather your ingredients.
  3. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  4. In a large deep skillet, heat EVOO, a turn of the pan. Add 2 tablespoons butter and when it foams add the onions. Stir to soften while you peel and chop the garlic. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic to onions and season with salt. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of chili paste or about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Add vodka and reduce by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and tear in a few leaves of basil. Reduce heat and simmer sauce, 10 minutes.
  5. Season pasta water with a fat tablespoon of salt, add penne and cook 1 minute less than package directions, about 8 minutes. Have a mug or measuring cup on hand.
  6. Add shrimp to a medium bowl and toss with remaining garlic. Thinly slice a lemon and toss with shrimp.
  7. In the second skillet, heat EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high and melt in 2 tablespoons butter. Add the shrimp mixture and toss 2 to 3 minutes; shrimp should be pink and opaque. Add a splash of Pernod or vermouth, the remaining red pepper flakes, a little salt and parsley; toss. Turn off heat.
  8. Add cream to sauce and stir. Add shrimp to sauce, bring back to a bubble and turn off heat.
  9. Reserve about 1/2 cup of starchy salty water and drain pasta or transfer to sauce with a spider. Toss pasta with sauce and grated cheese, using water to loosen as necessary.
  10. Transfer pasta to large serving bowl or to individual shallow bowls to serve.