March 1, 2011

Adelaide’s Easy Peasy Fettuccine alla Vodka & Caesar Salad {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}

fettucini all vodka

This is the latest installment of my Tales from the Trenches Series. An ongoing series where friends and readers share their stories and recipes about the great food they fit into family life. We all have tips and tricks to share with each other: when we cook, what we cook and how we cook the delicious food we love to eat. If you are interested in contributing a story and recipe please feel free to contact me. To my friend Adelaide Mueller is sharing her easy recipe for delicious Fettuccini alla Vodka and Caesar Salad. The recipes can be prepared ahead of time (like during naptime!) and assembled right before dinner. Adelaide frequently fits cooking and easy entertaining into after-work hours and weekends. She is trained in French cuisine and tests recipes for blogs and cookbooks (like mine, for example!), while also writing her own blog The Moonlight Chef.

Like many people, my husband and I rush through the week in anticipation of the weekend.  We occasionally get to eat dinner at home maybe once or twice a week, but with work and other commitments, we don’t get to do this as often as we’d like. Oftentimes, on a crazed night, we’ll stop by our favorite neighborhood pizza spot or Korean restaurant.  And on the weekends, we’ll often meet friends out.  So when we do get to pull up chairs to our own table, light the candles and fold the linen napkins, I like to make something special and involved.

For a long time, Citarella’s vodka sauce was our favorite weekend meal.  Spooned on top of pasta and topped with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, it made us happy. As I began to feel more confident and comfortable creating my own recipes, I decided to take on our preferred jar of pasta sauce. Once I figured out what made this sauce so delicious (heavy cream, high-quality canned whole tomatoes, a splash of vodka) and the texture so unique (cubed pancetta, delicate leaves of basil and strings of onions) I went to the stove.

Caesar Salad

This dish, alongside our go-to Caesar salad, makes dinner at home taste and look restaurant-worthy. It’s even possible to serve this on a weeknight when you have a couple of extra minutes for preparation.  While it’s always nice to have a dinner for two, this is an excellent meal for entertaining.  The salad can sit in the fridge for up to an hour, un-tossed, and the pasta sauce can be made a day ahead and reheated as the pasta cooks.

I like to use anchovy oil in place of whole anchovies in the Caesar salad recipe.  I add in ½ a teaspoon of the oil from the jar of anchovies (you need a jar of anchovies packed in oil).  Freshly grated Parmesan cheese is a must for the salad and to top the pasta – it will make all of the difference!  The majority of the alcohol will cook off as the sauce simmers, but if you’re serving to children and worried about the alcohol content, just omit the vodka.

Recipe

Fettuccine alla Vodka Sauce & Caeser Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb fettuccine
2 oz fresh pancetta, cubed
½ yellow onion, sliced thin
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
28 oz can of whole tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano)
1 pinch granulated sugar
¼ cup vodka
5 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving

For the Caesar Salad

large head of romaine lettuce (or 2 medium heads)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon anchovy oil
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Directions for the Fettuccine

1.     Sauté the cubed pancetta in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown and most of the fat has rendered.  Remove the majority of fat, leaving approximately ½ teaspoon in the pan.

2.     While the pancetta is sautéing, bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Prepare the pasta to al dente, following the directions on the box.

3.     Add the sliced onion to the saucepan and sauté with the pancetta until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the dried oregano and red pepper flakes.

4.     Use your fingers to crush the whole tomatoes and pour them into the sauce. Stir in the sugar, vodka, heavy cream, salt, pepper and basil leaves. Allow the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, if needed.

5. Once the pasta is al dente, use tongs to transfer the pasta into the vodka sauce. Turn off the heat and make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Directions for the Caesar Salad

1.     Remove the end and top dark green leaves and discard.  Chop the remaining light green lettuce into 1” pieces.  Rinse and dry.

2.     Add the garlic, egg yolk, Dijon mustard, anchovy oil, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to the bottom of a large salad bowl.  Whisk together until combined. Add ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese to the dressing.

3.     Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.  Top with the lettuce and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Toss right before serving.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas


This simple meal is perfect on it’s own. For guests consider serving a nice big loaf of garlic bread alongside!

Naptime Stopwatch


20 minutes pasta, 10 minutes salad

Naptime Reviews


My daughter loves red sauce and I am sure she will adore this!