Pasta meets limoncello – Garden & Gun

If it’s summer and life is easy, cooking should be too. I love finding new ways to use bumper crops from the backyard or finds from the farmers market, like sweet yellow peppers that beckoned from a bucket of scarlet peppers on a recent trip. Their cheerful hue made me think of lemons. And since liquor cabinet ingredients are often my secret weapons for fresh inspiration in the kitchen, it got me wondering how those little bells and limoncello, the citrus-sweet Italian digestif, might mingle with an easy summer pasta dish. After all, a neutral spirit like vodka is the basis of limoncello. So, just like that, the idea for this new riff on classic penne alla vodka was born. Whether you’re using vodka, wine, fortified wine, or limoncello, reducing a small amount of alcohol in a sauce as it simmers causes aroma molecules to be released, which enhance the flavor.

Traditional with vodka recipes rely on tomatoes and cream, but this rendition instead blends cream with a silky smooth yellow pepper coulis (a strained mash). The limoncello amplifies the sweetness inherent in the peppers, while the cream complements any lingering spiciness. The end result is a bright dish that tastes like summer on a plate. Because the sauce is pureed, its main ingredient isn’t immediately obvious, and because it’s slightly sweet and yellow, serving it can be like a tasting game. Most of the guesses at my table were ‘sweet corn’ which I consider a compliment. This sauce alludes to the precious milk scraped from corn cobs. Serve this pasta as a side dish or top it with grilled shrimp or chicken for a delicious dinner.

See more recipes in our Bar Cart Kitchen series.