2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/4 pound pancetta or guanciale or bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 small fresh chili pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup stock
1 can plum tomatoes (28-32 ounces)
A few leaves of basil, torn
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne rigate
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add the pancetta, guanciale or bacon and crisp at the edges, 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, bay, chili pepper and thyme; cook to tender. Add the tomato paste, stir for 1 minute, then add the flour and stir for a minute more. Add the vodka, then the stock, tomatoes and basil. Break up the tomatoes and simmer.
Add the cream and cook for 30 minutes at a gentle bubble.
Cook the pasta to al dente in salted boiling water; reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta, then toss with the sauce and the starchy cooking water. Remove from the heat, toss with a handful of cheese and serve.