Boil a generously salted pot of water for the penne and it cook al dente according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add the oil and butter to a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened (ok if it lightly browns).
Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the vodka and let the sauce bubble for 30 seconds or so.
Stir in the tomato paste until you've got a smooth mixture.
Stir in the cream, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let the sauce warm through. I find this sauce thickens up very quickly (within a couple minutes), but feel free to cook it a little longer to thicken it up even more.
Season with salt & pepper as needed. Stir in the fresh basil if using. Toss with the drained pasta (if needed, thin the sauce out a bit with a splash of hot pasta water prior to draining it). Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
I don't recommend subbing the heavy cream for something like milk or half-and-half because the sauce is likely to curdle/get grainy, and it won't be as thick or delicious.
Use a good quality tomato paste! For this recipe, I prefer the kind sold in the tubes (like DeLallo and Mutti sell).
This makes 4 reasonably-sized portions (not huge ones, and I suggest serving this recipe with something like a salad since it's quite rich by itself). If you're feeding hungry people who will eat more than 2 oz pasta each and no side dishes, I recommend doubling the recipe.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.