Friday, May 03, 2013

Jr. Hikers: Penne Alla Vodka

When the weather gets nice, kids want to be outside.  And it's hard to blame them.  Our little escape artist has figured out how to open doors, so if we don't keep the front door locked, he's trying to explore the great outdoors.

He's not the only one, so we got the gang together last weekend to go on a little hike.  My mommy group has expanded a bit.  In 2 directions.  The obvious direction is the newest little members, two so far and one on the way.  The other direction is outward.  Since we've been hanging out, our husbands have gotten involved and become friends.  So on Sunday we had moms, babies, and daddies!

And M even showed up with her older adorable son, leaving the baby at home.

We went on a hike, stopping to watch the ducks, lizards, and egrets on the lagoon.  And then we headed to the Nature Center - or rather the observatory up top.  The kids found a table and all wanted to sit together.  I call this the Breakfast Club picture.  You have the smart kid, the princess, the jock, the rebel, and the weirdo.  My kid is the weirdo.

After the were done sitting, there was lots of running around.  And then we headed inside of the Nature Center.  Most of the kids were way into the snakes and frogs.  But my kid (the weirdo) just wanted to hang out on the beanbag.  And Little HorseWhisperer thought that sounded like a good idea too.  But Thatbaby didn't want to share.  Which began what HorseWhisperer called "The Battle of the Bean Bag."

The rest of Sunday was spent getting ready for the week.  And trying a new pasta.  When I was studying for The Bar, one of BarBri instructors claimed her father invented vodka sauce.  I have no idea if this is true.  But I do know I had never made a vodka sauce before.  And it was time to remedy that.  You probably already know I love Elly's blog for pasta dishes, and since she has a vodka sauce recipe posted, I knew I could trust it.  Thatboy was a little worried about the alcohol, but I assured him it would burn off.  I hope I was right, because Thatbaby inhaled this dish.  Thatboy liked it too.  So it's possible that there was enough vodka left over to make it addicting.

Penne Alla Vodka (From Cooks Illustrated as seen on Elly Says Opa)
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes , drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese , for serving
1. Puree half of tomatoes in food processor until smooth. 
2. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup.  
3. Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
4. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. 
5. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. 
7. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. 
8. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
9. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 -1/2 cup cooking water,
10. Combine sauce and pasta in the pot and toss.  Heat 1-2 minutes until pasta absorbs some of sauce, adding reserved pasta water as necessary. 
11. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.


  1. The weather? Not so nice (it's snowing). The pasta dish? Very nice! (Cause it's snowing.)

  2. I adore vodka sauce but haven't made it in ages! Definitely trying this version. And all the kids together are so cute!

  3. This is one of my favourite "go to" recipes, especially for a busy work week.

  4. What a great way to spend the day....And a great way to end the day with a good pasta dish.

    I don't think I have ever made a vodka sauce either. I may have to remedy that soon.