This was the dish the won my wife's heart on one of our early dates. If it's good enough to trick someone like her into marrying me, it's got to be good, right?
Heat a pan on medium heat and coat the base with enough olive oil so that all the pan is covered well. Toss in the garlic and sweat a bit before adding the onion.
Once the onions are translucent add in the beef (put a little salt on it before adding). Cook until browned then add in the tomatoes.
Heat the tomatoes until it starts to boil a little . Add in salt, red pepper flakes, and vodka. Reduce heat to a simmer and let the alcohol cook out (at least 10-15 minutes). In the meantime, in another pot boil water, add some salt, and cook pasta until a bit before al dente and drain (it's going to cook some more with the sauce so a little on the hard side is fine).
To the sauce add the butter and cream. Olive oil can be substituted for butter if you want a bit less fat and a less creamy sauce. Stir together and add more salt or red pepper to taste. The herbs can also be added at this point.
Combine the sauce with the penne in a large pot over a low flame. Add in parmsan cheese. Fold together everything until the sauce starts to stick to the penne and is not so watery.
Serve with extra parmasan on the side.