Penne and Lobster with Vodka Sauce

Recipe by Mary Ann Esposito, author of Ciao Italia Family Classics

Southern Italian-Americans still carry on this tradition, as do I, and one of my favorites is penne alla vodka to which I have added lobster, but other seafood such as scallops or shrimp would make a nice stand in for lobster. This is a rich dish worthy to be the centerpiece of the feast.

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound penne rigate  (with lines)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (or more if you wish)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers in brine, drained and minced
½ cup vodka
4 cooked lobster tails, cut into small pieces
2 cups puréed canned plum tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Fine sea salt to taste
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
¼ cup reserved pasta cooking water

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan (12-14 inches). Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft. Stir in the capers and cook 1 minute longer. Raise the heat to medium high and add the vodka; allow most of it to evaporate. Stir in the lobster and lower the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly pour in the cream along the side of the pan and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the peas.

Add half the cheese and keep the sauce covered and warm while the penne are cooking.

Cook the penne in 4 to 6 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the penne, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water.

Transfer the penne to the sauté pan with the reserved water and stir the ingredients well over medium heat until hot. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and stir to blend.

Transfer to a platter and serve.