Monday, January 31, 2011

Penne alla Smirnoff

For this movie, I wanted to make something with hard alcohol.  I cook with wine all the time, and it just didn't seem like enough of a challenge.  And I've already made beer battered fish on this blog.  Besides, Don didn't sit around drinking white wine spritzers!  In The Lost Weekend, Don drinks whiskey by the bottle.  I didn't have any whiskey on hand, but I did have vodka.  The most famous vodka recipe is penne alla vodka, but unfortunately I only had two bottles of Smirnoff: twist of lime and passion fruit.  Neither one seemed like it would work for that dish.  So I searched.  And searched.  Do you know how hard it is to find a good dish that uses vodka?  Unless you are creating a cocktail, vodka doesn't go well into much.  So I decided to do penne alla vodka with lime vodka.  How bad could it be?

Don from The Lost Weekend after trying my Lime Smirnoff Sauce
I selected Smitten Kitchen's version of Rachel Ray's (and I'm quoting here) "You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta."  I didn't just choose it because the nice lady on Smitten Kitchen told me to (although to me that seems a good reason), but I noticed that several other blogs and websites endorsed her special recipe.  And despite my dubious feelings towards Rachel Ray (her voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me) I know that her recipes tend to be yummy and easy to make.  And extremely fattening...

No that this one is too bad.  But of course, as usual, I started the recipe only to realize I didn't have as many of the ingredients as I thought.  Substituting half a yellow onion for two shallots isn't so bad, but I definitely did not have enough crushed tomatoes.  There was absolute no basil to be found in my fridge.  And let's not even mention the lime vodka--although good in Cosmopolitans, I'm sure Rachel would be horrified.  Perhaps this is why I am not engaged yet.  Even so, I have reproduced my take on Smitten Kitchen's take on Rachel Ray's take on Penne Alla Vodka.  Still with me? 

Penne alla Smirnoff...with a hint of lime...
You'll need:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a yellow/white onion, minced
1 cup vodka (mine was of the lime variety)
1 cup chicken stock
1 can tomato paste (14 ounces)
1 can peeled heirloom tomatoes (12 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces penne
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dried Italian seasoning
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Add oil, butter, garlic, and onions.  Cook the onions (without burning them) for 3 to 5 minutes until slightly translucent.
  3. Add vodka to the pan. Cook until vodka is reduced by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock and tomatoes.
  5. Bring sauce to a slow bubble and reduce heat to simmer.
  6. While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (not smushy, I hate smushy). When it is finished, drain into a colander.
  7. Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Season with salt, pepper, and whatever Italian spices you find in your kitchen (as I did).
  8. Add the pasta to the skilled and stir to combine.  Serve and enjoy!

In trepidation I tested the's good! Sure, it's a little tangy, but I personally think that it adds a little something. Mission successful! Or at least I think so...but I think Rachel Ray says I need to find a boy to try it out on?

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