Monday, November 28, 2005


Lemon-Fire Pasta

Let's face it kids, for the most part, pasta recipes are a total bore. They are a medley of cooked noodles and sauce/meat/seafood/etc. Sometimes inspired and transporting, but mostly, not.

So feeling that way, why have I got a lovely picture of noodles tantalizingly posted on the screen? Because kids, that is not a recipe for pasta, that is a recipe for pasta with limoncello.

Limoncello is a lemon flavored cordial that is so simple to make at home there is no excuse whatsoever (barring sobriety) that you shouldn't have some on hand at all times. I first had it sitting on a balcony overlooking the sea, in the ultra-fantastically-dreamy town of Manarola in Cinque Terra, Italy, with my sensationally food-centric, master-chef, Italian-American Step-Father pouring. I was rapturous over it's taste. An instant convert. Later that week I tried to buy a bottle, and was stopped with a smile. "No, no, my dear, this, I will show you how to make." Thus began my flavored vodka making frenzy that has never really abated.

The vibrant yellow color and lemon-rific flavor will send you right into your own dizzying summer sunset. And the bonus of course is that it is great in loads of dishes, from the most simple, to the outrageously complex. (Try marinating squid in it. Sigh.) Here for instance, I simply combined it with some oil and other ingredients for a fiery hot, electrifying, taste sensation. that whips up in a second. Boring old noodles with sauce, this is not. Try it, and enjoy.

For limoncello:

1 750 ml bottle (minus a few sips) vodka or Everclear
8 large organic lemons, scrubbed clean
1/4 cup white sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled)

Using a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler, remove the yellow zest from the lemons in large strips. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and let steep for up to 3 months in your freezer.

For the pasta:

1 pound long noodles
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup limoncello
1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted
Salt to taste
Black pepper, parsley and parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large, covered pot bring heavily salted water to a boil. Remove the lid, add the pasta, give it a stir and cook per package directions for al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan often until just turning golden, about three minutes. Remove from the pan and return the pan to the burner.

Lower the heat and add the olive oil and limoncello. Toss in the pepper flakes and lemon zest. It will fizzle. Let warm through while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is done, drain, then pour into a large bowl, toss with the lemon oil, pine nuts, parsley and black pepper (to taste). Pass with parmesan cheese.

Serves six to eight as a first course.

Additions: Capers, black olives, anchovies, frizzled leeks, scallops, broiled chicken, artichoke hearts...well, anything that you would put in pasta, right?


"Why do you think we add vodka to Penne alla Vodka?" says Shirley Corriher, food scientist and author. "Beverage alcohol actually dissolves flavor components and brings them out into the sauce."

In Italy, commercially made limoncello accounts for 65.3 percent of all sweet liqueur sold

The pine nut is also called the pinion nut or pignolia. It is mainly gathered in October in southern Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado from the stone pine (pinion means pine) trees.

From a reader: "Hi, I saw this and thought it was a great idea but badly presented. Check it out." Cooking By Numbers

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Hello I just found your blog (through Orangette's, I think). Your blog rocks-- love the recipes! I have bookmarked it and will check in regularly. :)
Thanks Kimberly, that made my day!
Well I think your blog rocks too! Hard! Ah, but you already know that.

This limoncello idea is outrageously good. A friend of mine told me he's making some right now. I'm going to start my own this weekend. Oh, and with Meyer lemon season approaching, do you think it would be good with those?
One of the things about Meyer lemons that makes them so special (and hard to ship) it their delicate and thin skins. Since this only calls for the zest, Im not sure I would bother. They are the best lemon for sure, but for this, I would stick with standard lemons.

As for the rockin' comment, I can only blush and say thanks...hee hee
Lemoncello seems to be the hot drink in the press this year: the NY Times had a recipe on November 6 and the Washington Post had one on December 7th. The NY Times version uses lemon peel, 6 parts vodka, 1 part water and 1 part sugar (result = 60 proof); the Post's version uses lemon peel and roughly equal quantities of 190 proof grain alcohol, water, and sugar (result = 65 proof).

I am in the middle of aging a batch (3 weeks) using the NY Times recipe, and look forward to using it in your lemon-fire pasta.
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