Penne Alla Vodka

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So, in buying alcohol for our New Year’s party, I either overdid it or I didn’t overdo it in the right way. Meaning: we couldn’t have had enough Champagne or Prosecco (bottles disappeared in less time than it took to open new ones), but–for some reason–the two giant bottles of vodka I bought (in mirrored disco-ball packaging) went mostly unconsumed. Which meant, the next day–Thursday–after we cleaned up, I stood face-to-face with more vodka than I knew what to do with.

Actually, it didn’t take long to figure out what to do with it: as the saying goes, “When life throws you vodka, make Penne Alla Vodka.” I love Penne Alla Vodka. I once walked from the East Village to the West Village in 8 degree weather to get a bowl at Pepe Rosso. Their Penne Alla Vodka has pancetta in it, and may be one of the best and fastest foods to eat when you’re freezing and starving in the West Village. But now I was home, hungover, and eager to use up as much vodka as I could on a classic American-Italian staple. In terms of using up vodka, I didn’t do too well–it takes only 1/4 of a cup to make the recipe; but in terms of making dinner, I hit the ball out of the park.

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Zite with Onions, Sausage & Fennel

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It’s a big heaping mess, but boy is it good. The recipe comes from “The Silver Spoon Cookbook,” a birthday gift from Matthew my show’s director and a book that’s called Italy’s version of “The Joy of Cooking.” This specific recipe comes from the special back section where Italian chefs offer up their own favorite dishes and is it any surprise that the chef whose recipe I fluttered to first was Lydia Bastianich? Her Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans is an Amateur Gourmet staple–we eat it here at least once every two weeks. Plus, the recipe she offers up in this book–ziti with onions, sausage and fennel–is something I’ve seen her make on her show and it’s a naturally enticing combination.

You saw the end result on this week’s FN Dish and let me tell you, it was tremendous. The fat from the sausage enriches the pasta, the fennel and onion add a lovely sweetness, and then you douse the whole thing with cheese. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and definitely something to make before it gets warm outside. Here’s the recipe…

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