A pan of just-baked penne alla vodka.

Tieghan Gerard, author of the Half Baked Harvest cookbook and the eponymous blog, has a new book out: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple. It’s filled with more than “125 recipes for instant, overnight, meal-prepped, and easy comfort foods.”

Naturally, I’m finding myself very drawn to the “pizza & pasta” chapter, a number of which are speaking to me: butternut squash and apple pizza, made with a smear of apple butter, sautéed shallots, and ribbons of raw butternut squash (created with a vegetable peeler), “grown-up” SpaghettiOs, made with mostly tomato paste and water but which is astonishingly delicious*, and this BAKED penne alla vodka.

I love penne alla vodka and have been a devotee of Ina’s recipe for years, which takes hours to cook. Tieghan’s vodka sauce takes a fraction of the time and relies on garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and, most importantly, a half cup of slivered sun-dried tomatoes, whose flavor in the end is so subtle — it will have any recipients of your baked-pasta labors guessing.

You can serve the sauce traditionally with al dente pasta and a shaving of parmesan over top or you can take it one step further and bake it. I opted for the latter and have zero regrets.

It’s simple: after you toss the pasta with the vodka sauce, you layer half of it into a 9×13-inch baking pan, top this layer with a mix of ricotta and heavy cream, top with the remaining pasta, and finally a layer of fresh mozzarella. After 35 minutes in the oven, when the cheese is beginning to blister and the pasta tips are beginning to char, it’s done.

Serve it with a simple green salad — that’s all it needs.

5 Other Favorite Baked Pastas

*I loved this one and after making it with wagon wheels, I ordered the traditional anelli pasta, which is very hard to find in a traditional grocery store. I love the “little rings.”

Ingredients to make baked penne alla vodka sauce on a countertop.

Here’s the play by play: Gather your ingredients.

A saucepan filled with butter, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in butter.

A saucepan filled with butter, garlic, red pepper flakes and vodka.

Add vodka and reduce by a third.

A saucepan filled with vodka sauce simmering.

Add crushed tomatoes (or plum) along with sun-dried tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.

A saucepan filled with simmered vodka sauce aside an immersion blender.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then …

A saucepan filled with puréed vodka sauce.

… purée it.

A large bowl filled with cooked pasta, vodka sauce, and parmesan.

Toss very al dente pasta with the sauce and parmesan.

A bowl of pasta tossed with vodka sauce.
A 9x13-inch pan filled with one layer of penne tossed with vodka sauce.

Layer half of the pasta into a 9×13-inch baking pan.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with one layer of penne tossed with vodka sauce topped with a creamy layer of ricotta and cream.

Top with a layer of ricotta mixed with heavy cream.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with penne tossed with vodka sauce.

Top with the remaining pasta.

A 9x13-inch pan filled with unbaked penne alla vodka.

Top with fresh mozzarella and transfer to the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Just-baked penne alla vodka sauce.

Remove from the oven and let cool briefly.

A pan of just-baked penne alla vodka.
A bowl of just-baked penne alla vodka aside salad.

Serve with a simple green salad (and simple vinaigrette… this is my favorite).

A cookbook on a countertop: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple

Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest Super Simple