I first started watching the Food Network sometime in 2001. Although I hate to admit this (because she is just not the same person she was then), it was largely due to Rachel Ray. One of the first things she ever made on 30 Minute Meals was Penne ala Vodka (which she unfortunately felt the need to call You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta.
A friend of mine had made her family's version of this dish for me about 5 years before I watched this episode. It was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten, and when I tried to create her recipe, it didn't even compare. (Not sure what went wrong there, MJ!)
So, when I saw that RR had a few slightly different ingredients, I gave it a try and it came out just great. It was the first successful dish I had ever cooked, and though it is so easy for me now, it was a major challenge then. Completely unsure of myself in the kitchen, I even counted out the 20 leaves of basil!
This was also the first meal I made for my husband (before he was my husband) — I guess I wasn't single for long? Since he doesn't drink, I learned that making this sauce without the vodka is no big deal at all (and it makes the meal a bit more affordable, too).
When I made this the other night, it was a breeze — makes me realize how far I have come!