Friday, February 25, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Kicked Up Penne a la Vodka

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Last Friday night, John was in charge of picking out a recipe for dinner that we could make together.  We've just started doing this because although I like having John cook with me in the kitchen, it is usually a lot easier to let him concentrate on work, and me concentrate on food.  It's a lot of fun trying new recipes and deciding on menus. 

Since I won a gift certificate to Whole Foods through a recent Super Bowl recipe contest (don't worry, you will see this one soon), we've been getting ourselves little "treats".  I'll be honest, I can't shop at Whole Foods for budgetary reasons, but getting ourselves beautiful meat cuts or fish, or even a local ice cream is something that I'm really enjoying!  I figure if we buy ourselves only a few treats a week, we can make this thing last for 10 weeks! 

This week, John spurted out Penne a la Vodka for the recipe which is one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant.  I was SHOCKED, but thrilled!  Of course, he then qualified it by saying he wanted to use "Biker Billy's" recipe.  If you've never heard of Biker Billy, he has a cookbook called Biker Billy's Hog Wild on a Harley.  John loves it cause it's spicy (and I dread it).  We came to a great compromise though using a few different recipes.  The original one from Biker Billy is called "Penne with Crankcase Vodka Sauce".  Mine is just "kicked up" because Crankcase would have burned my tongue, throat, stomach, and anything else that I can think would come into contact with it!
Kicked Up Penne a la Vodka
Serves:  5
6 ounces of sundried tomatoes (2/3 cup)
1 cup boiling water
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup pepper vodka
1 box penne pasta

I know this looks like a lot but its easy, so stay with me!

In a food processor, chop the sundried tomatoes until small pieces.  Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let sit for 10 minutes.  Next, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and let cook until tender (5 minutes), turn to medium-low heat.  Then, add the minced garlic, sundried tomatoes and their water, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Let cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes, until all the water has boiled out.  Meanwhile, make the penne according to package directions.  After the sundried tomato water has boiled out, transfer the mixture back into the food processor and add the half and half.  Puree the mixture for about 2 minutes.  Then, add the vodka and return to the skillet.  Stir well and let the mixture simmer on low.  Stir occasionally.  Drain the pasta, when it is finished cooking and add to the skillet tossing until the pasta is well-combined with the sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired. 

This dinner came together really quickly, plus with both of us in the kitchen, everything flowed and dinner was served 45 minutes after we started, so that included chopping, mixing, everything.  And it was delicious!  Personally, we used fat-free half and half.  Why not?  To me, it didn't make much of a difference.  Since John drinks his coffee black, and I don't drink coffee, we never have half and half or cream in the house, but if you do, this is a no-brainer dinner.

Just like the Banana Chocolate Chip Souffle, buying a nip at the liquor store is the easiest way to get the vodka that you need if you don't have it in the house.  Or, if you're against vodka, throw in some lemon juice instead--the acid will give it that kick, without the alcohol.

Until the next time my oven is on...


  1. this is silly, but i really like the looks of that plate.... also might actually try making this one. (:

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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