So, my eleven-year-old daughter is becoming quite the mini-foodie. She expects a good, fresh mozzarella for the Margarita pizza she makes from scratch. She’s choosy about her prosciutto and prefers imported Parma, of course. And, when we are at a restaurant, she often asks the waitress if the chef can make Vodka sauce, even if it’s not on the menu. When she does get to order it, her reaction is often– “it’s amahhhhzing,” spoken with the dramatic flair of a tween. Other times, she scrunches up her nose and says, “not as good as yours, Mom.”
My kids have been eating Vodka sauce since they were babies, because I cooked so much of it when I ran my catering business. Those days, we ate whatever I sold on any given day, and I sold a ton of Vodka sauce. It’s probably their favorite, and although I don’t make it as much these days, it’s always a treat when the creamy, pink pasta makes its way to the table. The kids cheer, as they wait expectantly at the table. Come to think of it, when I make Vodka pasta, their bums actually stay on their chairs throughout the entire dinner. Miraculous, I know.
One night last summer, the two older ones questioned me about the vodka in the sauce.
“Can we get drunk on that pasta?”
I explained to them that the alcohol cooks out of the sauce but leaves the flavor. I assured them it was totally okay and that they wouldn’t get drunk from eating the pasta. Then, as we were sitting out on the deck that evening, chowing down on pappardelle, my taste buds detected a little too much vodka in this particular batch. I thought to myself – Crap. Maybe I didn’t cook it quite long enough
Of course, super taster eleven-year-old also picked up on the subtle difference in flavor and began to fret over it. Family conversation ensued, as the five year old drank the extra sauce from her plate and licked her fingers clean without a care in the world.
In the end, nobody got drunk off of the pasta. At least, I don’t think so. We were all tremendously happy and full, and there was no pappardelle left in the bowl.
Moral of the story – give your kids vodka. They’ll sit through dinner.
Now for today’s recipes
Pasta with vodka sauce - with grilled chicken if you’d like to add a protein
Balsamic Roasted asparagus
3T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
Handful fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 C vodka
1 pint heavy cream
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or sauce pot. Add onions, garlic, salt, pepper and basil, and saute on low heat for a few minutes, until onions are translucent. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add sauce and tomatoes and let cook for about 15 minutes so that the flavors meld. At this point, you have a nice marinara sauce. Next, add the vodka, and let it cook for 30 minutes, so that the alcohol burns off and your kids don’t end up drunk. Last, add the cream and stir just until it’s incorporated. The sauce will have a pinky orange color – kind of like a sunrise J
Serve over your favorite pasta with some good Parmesan cheese on top.
You can also add protein to this. Grilled chicken or shrimp – either are a great addition. My trick to grilled chicken is marinating. I use Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar dressing to marinate my chicken. Toss the meat in a plastic baggie or bowl filled with the dressing before you leave for work in the morning or for a few hours before you grill it, and I promise you, it will be the moistest, tastiest chicken you’ve ever had. I don’t know what it is about this dressing, but it’s like magic.
A nice vegetable to pair with this meal is roasted asparagus. FYI - in summer, I do the exact same thing with the asparagus, but grill them instead of roasting them. Either way it's easy, quick, and super yummy!
Balsamic Roasted Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp pepper
¾ tsp garlic powder
3T olive oil
3T balsamic vinegar
Slice the ends off of a bunch of asparagus and lay them out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with seasonings and drizzle with oil and vinegar. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until the ends of the asparagus are brown and crispy.
Serve this meal with crusty bread and tossed salad, and it is the perfect family meal.
Hope your family enjoys it!