Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lemony Chicken & Rice Soup


With the change in seasons, comes a change in my weekly meal plan.  During the summer, it's all about grilled dinners, salads, and BLT's.  Quick and easy is the name of the game, so we can maximize time for playing outside or walking to the ice cream shop after dinner.  Things seem to slow down a bit as the weather cools down, with more time spent inside, cuddled up reading books, watching movies, building train tracks, and simmering pots of soup and chili on the stove top.

Oftentimes soup and chili are relegated to the weekend.  Because while not difficult or complicated, they can be time-consuming:  chop all the veggies, cook the veggies, cook the meat, combine it all, and let it simmer away, marrying together all the flavors and ingredients.  Luckily, you're rewarded for your patience when you have lunches for the rest of the week!

But sometimes you want soup on a Monday night.  Like, hypothetically if all the kids have colds... and one of the babies has an ear infection... and the other baby has a stomach bug... and you just want comfort food.  But since you're counting calories, you want something lighter.  Hypothetically of course.  And you want it right now - not in two hours.  Then what?

Then you make this soup.  It's a comforting chicken and rice soup, but it's kicked up a little.  The combination of onions, carrots, and fennel give it an aromatic base, with just a hint of sweetness.  The hearty chicken and rice add bulk, and the lemon and thyme give it a nice freshness.  Where this soup really stands out, however, is with the addition of the egg yolks.  They give the soup a really smooth, creamy, custardy quality, but without any heavy cream or dairy.  This gives the soup richness without being too heavy.  It's a great transitional soup from summer to fall - all the comfort and warmth, but with a bright lemony flavor, and right around 300 calories per serving.

Lemony Chicken & Rice Soup
barely adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 (3-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 2-3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on both sides, about 5-6 minutes total; transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, followed by the carrots, fennel, and onion.  Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic,thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the broth and lemon zest, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Immerse the browned chicken in the broth, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and when it's cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces.

Fish out the lemon zest from the pot.  Stir in the shredded chicken and rice, and return the soup to a simmer.  Allow to simmer about 1 minute, then turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice tighter in a medium bowl.  Stir 3 tablespoons of the hot broth into the yolk mixture, then whisk the yolk mixture into the soup.  Continue to cook the soup gently, whisking constantly, until it thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Immediately remove from heat and stir in the parsley.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Smith's Despicable Me Birthday Party


My biggest boy turned two last weekend, and we threw quite the shin dig for out little guy.  As a middle child myself, I have plenty of mom-guilt about Smith getting the short end of the stick, so I really wanted to make his party special.  This was amplified when as we were planning the party, Joey asked "Wait, he's not two yet?!" We laughed about it, but there is some truth to the sentiment - so much has happened in the past few years, that it seems crazy that he's only two years old!  A new house, new car, and two baby brothers - this kid has already had plenty of excitement in his short life!

Smith is absolutely obsessed with the movie Despicable Me, so it was a pretty easy decision to assemble his minion friends and throw him a despicable birthday party!  Joey and I actually really love the movie as well - it is funny, packed with action, and heartwarming (I dare you not to cry at the end). He watches (part of) the movie almost every. single. day, so we had tons and tons of ideas of ways to incorporate the movie into the party - from snacks, to games, to decorations - I had a huge list of ideas, and pared it down into a more manageable and reasonable party for a two year old.

Just as Vector welcomes visitors to the "Fortress of Vectortude," we welcomed guests into the "Fortress of Smithitude."  We also warned party-goers from going upstairs into "Smith's Lab."  Joey made these signs in Microsoft Word, and we had them printed at Staples.

For the food table set-up, Joey put his artistic ability to the test, and drew renderings of Gru's plan to steal the moon.  I also bought some paper lanterns from Party City, and taped on some minion goggles.

Since the party was at 3 pm, I didn't feel like I needed to provide a meal, just some fun snacks:

  • Cookie Robots (chocolate chip cookies)
  • Cheetos That Will Never Be Butterflies (Cheetos/Pirates Booty)
  • mmmm Stuffed Crust (Pizza Bites)
  • Coconutties (Coconut Macaroons)
  • fruit cups (grapes and strawberries)
  • veggie cups (carrots and celery with ranch dressing)
  • Yellow Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
  • Moon Cupcakes ("Gray Velvet" Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting)
Joey once again proved himself to be quite crafty with the cookie robot.  He bent paper clips into the legs, then hot glued them onto the bottom of mason jar lid.  I cut out the "robot sensor" from construction paper.  All the kids wanted to play with the robot; it was a big hit :)

I served "Antigravity Serum," aka lemonade, out of a big Erlenmeyer flask, and the kids got to drink it out of Vector's Crazy Straws.  Caroline was flummoxed as to why she wasn't floating (she also dressed as Margo for the party).

Perhaps my favorite detail of the party however, was this sign.  This scene from the movie has become a source of constant entertainment in our house, with one of us just randomly saying "I sit on the toilet," and all of us dissolving into laughter.  If I had to choose, I would say this is my favorite scene of the movie.  Once again, Joey was responsible for this decoration.  We actually hung this on the bathroom door, which really upset Caroline - she wanted it in the dining room with the rest of the plans.

For the games and entertainment, we kept in mind that all the kids attending were five and under, so nothing too crazy or complicated (though Caroline did want us to build a "big and fast roller coaster" in the backyard.

The Box of Shame, which was a punishment for the three orphan girls at Miss Hattie's, was by far the easiest party decoration I've ever made.  Cut a big hole from an Amazon box, and write "Box of Shame" in black marker.  Some kids had more fun in here than others (I spy a fluffy unicorn)...

We also spray-painted two liter bottles to look like minions, and glued on goggles and mouths.  We had originally planned for the games to be outdoors, but it rained all day long.  So we improvised, and set this up in the playroom.

We also set up a version of the angry spaceship game, that Gru so infamously "Knocked Ov-ver!"  I got the idea and printable from here, and we used a Nerf dart gun to shoot the space ship.  The kids all really loved shooting the dart gun, and Joey had fun "manning" this game and helping the kids aim.

After some snacks and games, it was cupcake time!  I've seen lots of cute minion cupcakes made out of Twinkies, but to be honest, I didn't have that kind of time, and I didn't want to be TOO over the top!  So I just used some cute blue wrappers and yellow frosting to make the cupcakes "minion inspired."  This was my favorite moment of the party.  Smith was playing and having fun, and of course got really excited when it was time to sing Happy Birthday.  However, he must not have realized that the party was for him, because when we sang "Happy Birthday, Dear Smith," his face absolutely lit up, and he was grinning from ear to ear.  Such a sweet boy.

After cake, I popped popcorn and played the movie.  This was a good chance for the kids to settle down a bit as the party started to wind down.  Of course, no one actually sat there and watched the entire movie, but things did calm down a little for about 20 minutes. :)

As we were setting up the party, Joey and I joked that we were going to have more fun than Smith, but I don't think that happened.  He absolutely loved the party, all the  minions, and all his friends.  Smith is such a sweet and special little boy.  He is a loving and doting big brother to Henry and Tucker, he adores his big sister "Care-hine," and has such a sweet spirit and fun personality.  Happy Birthday, buddy!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Creamy Lemon One-Pot Pasta


If you've spent any time at all on Pinterest in the last three months, you have no doubt seen Martha Stewart's One-Pot Wonder Pasta.  I'm pretty sure that every single one of my friends has pinned this recipe.  And for good reason - I made it about a month ago, and it was a huge hit with my whole family.  It was also one of the easiest dinners I've ever made, which is an added bonus.  I loved it so much in fact, that I began envisioning countless variations and iterations of the dish.

I started with this creamy lemon version.  It is alfredo-esque, but lighter, and honestly, more flavorful.  This creamy white wine and lemon sauce hits on all the major notes - creamy, salty, tart, and just a little spicy.  I had originally planned to add shrimp and mushrooms to the final dish, but decided to keep it simple this time.  I just served it with some roasted broccoli on the side, and it was such an easy and delicious meal.

I don't have much more to say about this one - it's so easy and tasty that I think it speaks for itself.  Start off the week with some comfort food!

Creamy Lemon One-Pot Pasta
inspired by Martha Stewart

  • 12 oz. dried pasta
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
In a large straight-sided skillet, combine the pasta, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, olive oil, salt, black pepper, water, milk, wine, and lemon zest.  

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, using tongs to turn and stir the pasta often.  Boil until the noodles are al dente and most of the liquid has evaporated/been absorbed, 8-12 minutes.  

Remove from heat, remove the sprigs of basil, and stir in the cream, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes, stir again, and divide among bowls.  

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and basil, if desired.

Thursday, September 19, 2013



Over the weekend, Caroline asked me what my favorite cookie is, and I had to think long and hard.  On the one had, it's hard to beat a good chocolate chip cookie.  Or a chewy peanut butter cookie.  But eventually, I decided that snicker doodles are my favorite.  Growing up, my mom had  Mrs. Field's Cookies, and we used to bake out of it quite often.  Snickerdoodles were always my favorite, mostly because I loved rolling them in the cinnamon-sugar (and subsequently licking my fingers, of course).  They are definitely the cookie that reminds me of my childhood the most, thus earning them the top spot of my cookie preferences. :)

So this weekend, as Caroline and I made these snickerdoodles, I felt like I had come full circle.  I portioned out the dough and rolled it into balls, she rolled them around in the cinnamon-sugar, and we sat in front of the oven to watch them bake.  We split one, warm from the oven, as soon as they were cool enough to grab, and I was instantly transported back to my mom's kitchen.  These cookies tasted exactly like the ones I used to eat as a child.  And then, when I looked over the recipe I used, I saw that it was in fact from Mrs. Field's Cookie Cookbook!  Full circle, indeed!

Whether it's because they are nostalgic for me or not, these snickerdoodles really are perfection.  Soft and chewy on the inside, with just a touch of crispiness around the edges, and that oh-so-important cinnamon-sugar coating.   Love at first bite.

makes 16-18 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Rolling
  • 2 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together at medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until well-combined.

Add the flour mixture, and mix at low speed just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Measuring out about 2 1/2 tablespoons portions, roll the dough into a small ball.  Roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.  Press very lightly with the palm of your hand to just slightly flatten the ball.  Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing each ball about 2-3 inches apart.

Bake the cookies 12-14 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back about halfway through.  They will still seem under baked, but they'll cook more as they rest, and will be soft and chewy in the middle.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake


I've gotten out of the habit of meal-planning lately, and it's definitely been a stressor for me.  If I don't have a dinner planned out, I feel like I spend the majority of the day staring blankly into my fridge, pantry, and freezer, basically just willing something to magically appear or give me inspiration.  Or going through my Pinterest boards and saved recipes hoping that I miraculously have all the ingredients I need for a particular recipe that catches my eye.  I try to minimize my trips to the grocery store throughout the week, both for budgetary and logistical reasons (Three kids under 2.  No further explanation necessary).

On this particular day, I remembered that I had some shredded chicken and some extra enchilada sauce in the freezer - score!  Earlier that day I laid down the gauntlet for myself and decided we were having quinoa in some fashion, and cooked a few cups during nap time.  I'm pretty much always craving Mexican food; thus divine inspiration hit, and this casserole was born.

Chicken Enchiladas are one of my favorite foods of all times, so it should come as no surprise that I like to reincarnate them into as many different dishes as I can.  So far, pizza, dip, pasta, and zucchini boats have all been pretty well-received at our house.  So a cheesy, baked casserole seemed like a surefire win.  And obviously, it was.

I've gotten into the habit of using quinoa instead of rice 90% of the time, so I continued on with that trend here.  It adds a lot of protein to the dish, so combined with the chicken and black beans, this dinner packs a major protein punch.  I also mixed in some corn, enchilada sauce, a modest amount of cheese, and a few extra spices and seasonings before baking it in the oven.

As expected, we all loved this dish - and what's not to love?  It's comforting, cheesy, spicy, reasonably healthy, and reminiscent of my all-time favorite meal!

Chicken Enchilada Quinoa Bake

I already had chicken, enchilada sauce, and quinoa prepped, so this came together quite quickly.  Even if you are making everything at once, it can all be done pretty easily as well - as the chicken cooks, make the enchilada sauce and cook the quinoa, then it's just assemble and bake.  As a matter of fact, this would make a great make-ahead meal, so you could prep and assemble the night before or morning of, then just throw it in the oven when you get home.

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, and diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbs chile powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2/3 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • sliced scallions and minced cilantro, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a medium baking dish.

Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and jalapeño, and sauté until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chicken, cumin, chile powder, salt, enchilada sauce, and 1/ 3 cup of each cheese.  Season with additional sat and pepper to  taste.  Mix well and pour into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake 15-20 minutes, then remove foil.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browning.  Rremove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped scallions and cilantro, and serve.

Red Enchilada Sauce
The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Note: This will make more than you need for this recipe, so I'd suggest just freezing the leftovers. You never know when you'll have an enchilada sauce emergency!
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbs chile powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, chile powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water, and bring to a simmer.  Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brown Butter Waffles

I know that brown butter has been all the rage for the past few years, and it's probably pretty played out at this point.  But I'd like to think that it's all the rage because it's just so gosh darn tasty!  Add brown butter to pretty much anything and it's an instant winner in my book.  Which is why I wanted to smack myself in the head when I happened across a recipe for brown butter waffles.  How have I never thought of that?!

These are, of course, delicious.  The brown butter just adds a subtle richness to the waffles, leaving you wondering what it is that makes them taste so good - a little bit of a kicked up version of your favorite Sunday morning breakfast.  Sure, you have to take a few extra minutes to brown the butter, but it's definitely an extra step that's worth taking.  This recipe also calls to separate the eggs, mix the yolks into the batter, and then whip the whites before folding them in.  This helps to create light and fluffy waffles that are beautifully crisp on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside.

I walked outside this morning, and it just smelled like fall.  Granted, it was 85 degrees at 9 am and didn't feel like fall, but I know it's coming.  And I can think of no other way I'd rather spend a chilly morning than cuddled up with my sweet babies, drinking coffee, and eating a warm and comforting breakfast.  Why not take a few extra minutes to make something special?

Brown Butter Waffles
barely adapted from Williams-Sonoma

  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat an oven to 200°F. Have ready a rimmed baking sheet. 

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and bring to a boil.  Stirring often, cook until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan turn a toasty brown, about 3 minutes.  Immediately transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly. Add the milk, egg yolks and vanilla, and whisk until combined. 

Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk mixture and whisk just until combined (leaving a few small lumps are okay). In another bowl, using a clean whisk or a handheld mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Scoop the whites onto the batter and, using the whisk, gently fold them in evenly. 

If your waffle iron is not nonstick, lightly and evenly oil the grid. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, spoon the batter over the grid, close the lid and cook until the waffle is golden brown, usually about 4 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the waffles piping hot with your desired toppings.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Broccoli & Gruyere Risotto

Are you familiar with the ubiquitous broccoli and cheese casserole?  Growing up it was present at every family holiday; and actually it still is.  I'm sure there are a million versions floating around, and there's a recipe for this printed in every single church cookbook.  Broccoli, cheese, rice, cream-of-something soup.... While its definitely not the healthiest or most gourmet dish, it is super comforting, and it always hits the spot.  Our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter tables would feel incomplete without my aunt's contribution.  It was always my favorite dish as a child, and it still holds a place in my heart/stomach.

I had that casserole in mind when I made this risotto.  It's got all the same ingredients, it's just a bit more refined and grown-up.  The casserole becomes a risotto, Gruyere cheese replaces the cheddar, and instead of the questionable cream-of-something soup, it gets it's creamy, comforting texture from the arborio rice and melted Gruyere.  The broccoli retains it's texture and bite since I just quickly steamed it, and the whole thing is still just as comforting, familiar, and delicious as the original casserole.  Only it's acceptable ... and even encouraged.. to pair this with a glass of wine.  Broccoli and cheese casserole is all grown up.

Broccoli and Gruyere Risotto
serves 3-4 as a main dish, 4-6 as a side

  • 3 cups bite-sized chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion or shallot
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup arborio rice (or other short-grained rice)
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large skillet, combine the broccoli florets, a pinch of salt, and water, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover and cook until the broccoli is bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain the broccoli, and set it aside.

Wipe out the skillet and return to the stove over medium heat.  Heat the oil, then add the onion and sauté until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.  Cover and allow to simmer continuously.

Add the arborio rice to the onions and garlic, and stir constantly until the edges of the grains are translucent.  Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the wine, stirring continuously until it's almost absorbed.

Working 1-2 ladles at a time, add the broth to the rice, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. 

Continue adding liquid until the rice is cooked to al dente, about 20 minutes total.  Taste to check doneness.  When cooked to al dente, add 1 more ladle of chicken broth, and remove from heat.  Stir in the butter, Gruyere cheese, and steamed broccoli.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pizza alla Vodka

Just as it is with so many other aspects of life, collaboration is truly a wonderful virtue of blogging.  A few weeks ago, I was thinking about food... as I often am.  Given my recent obsession, it's no surprise that my mind wandered to pizza.  I suddenly had the idea to create a pizza with vodka sauce.  Pizza alla vodka, if you will.  I had already mentally made the pizza - vodka sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and spicy Italian sausage.  Done and done.  Not even one week later, my pal Annie texted me about this "fancified" margherita pizza, and I immediately fell in love - essentially the same idea, but using roasted tomatoes and no sausage.  I couldn't get it out of my head, and I knew I needed to combine our concepts to create the ultimate pizza.

 I really and truly try not to be over the top about every recipe I post here.  Clearly I love them all, because I wouldn't share a recipe if it wasn't successful for me, but being overly effusive about every single dish kind of creates a "boy who cried wolf" image.  So with that disclaimer out of the way, let me just tell you that this is without a doubt the best pizza I've ever made.  It is so fabulous in fact, that I made it twice in one weekend.  

I started by making a quick vodka sauce - crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, vodka, and cream.  As the oven preheated, I roasted the cherry tomatoes and browned the sausage.  Then I slathered the vodka sauce onto the dough, piled on the toppings, crossed my fingers, and threw it in the oven.  The combination of pizza dough, roasted tomatoes, melty cheese, and spicy sausage made my house smell absolutely amazing, so I knew we were in for something special.

And it did not disappoint.  This pizza totally blew my mind.  I actually ate so much of it that I kind of made myself sick, and had to go lie down for a bit after polishing off the last piece.  True story.  And then the next day I kicked myself for being such a pig, because I wanted leftovers!  So I did what any reasonable person would do, and just made another one.  Then repeated my mistakes from the day before.  I'm apparently not the quickest learner...

Anywho, I'll finish this up by saying that if you had to choose one recipe from my blog to make, choose this one.  And then you can hate me, because it will be nearly impossible to go back to boring old tomato sauce after you eat pizza with vodka sauce.

Pizza alla Vodka
a Pink Parsley original, with inspiration from Annie's Eats
vodka sauce adapted from Cook's Illustrated and Annie's Eats

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 heaping cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • pinch of sugar
  • kosher salt
Vodka Sauce*
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the Pizza
  • 1 lb. pizza dough
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 links spicy sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey are all fine)
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and sugar.  Turn on the oven to 500 degrees, place a baking stone on the bottom rack, and roast the tomatoes while the oven preheats.  Stir them every 5-6 minutes, roasting for 15-20 minutes total, or until they are browned, caramelized, and have released a lot of their liquid.  Keep a close eye on them though, because they will burn easily.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven and transfer the baking stone to the top rack.  Keep the oven on as you prepare the rest of the pizza.

Meanwhile, make the vodka sauce.  In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5-6 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste, and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.  Pour in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the vodka and cook an additional 5-8 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in the cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Remove the sausage from its casings, crumble, and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, 5-6 minutes.  Drain off as much fat as you can, and set aside.

Sprinkle a large square of parchment paper with cornmeal, and pull and stretch the pizza dough into a 14-inch round.  Brush the perimeter with olive oil.  Spread 1/2 - 3/4 cup of the vodka sauce over the dough.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella, followed by the spicy sausage, roasted tomatoes, and finally the parmesan cheese.  

Carefully transfer the pizza + parchment to the preheated baking stone, and cook 10 minutes, rotating the pizza 180 degrees after 5 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes, sprinkle with the basil, slice, and serve.  Pass the extra vodka sauce at the table for dipping.

*This does make more vodka sauce than you'll need, so use some of it for dipping, and keep the rest for another pizza or to toss with some pasta later in the week.