Sunday Supper: Penne alla Vecchia Bettola
As a busy mom with a TV that is most likely on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or some Disney show about snarky teenagers, I rarely get to sit and watch a cooking show. But, when I do, there is really only one I need to see, Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten is my food idol and here is why. She is completely self taught and didn’t start her career in food. Early in her career, she realized that food made her happy, took a leap of faith, bought a little deli and the rest is history. Her food is approachable, easy and always tastes good. Most importantly, her recipes never fail. That’s right, never. If you make an IG recipe, and it didn’t taste right, it’s you, not her. Why? Because she would never put something in print that hasn’t been tested by her, her qualified testers and then again, by her. As a cookbook tester, I appreciate the fact that she doesn’t just throw something into print, get paid and walk away (as many food celebs do). I have all her cookbooks and they are worth their weight in gold. If you are looking to start a cookbook collection, or even just need a few trusty books to go to for inspiration, her books are a great place to start.
I have made so many of her recipes and honestly can’t pick a favorite but there are some true stand outs. Now this recipe isn’t her's but she did pick it as a favorite and learned how to make it. She then shared it on Food Network - lucky us. This recipe comes from one of Ina’s favorite Hamptons restaurants, Nick and Toni’s. It might seem like penne alla vodka and technically it is. However, it is the best penne alla vodka you will ever have. What struck me most, was how the tomato sauce is baked before you add the cream. The sauce is so good, I don’t even add the cream sometimes. It has this amazing roasted tomato flavor really, not much work.
This Sunday, channel your inner Ina and make this sauce. It makes a large quantity to enjoy leftovers. Great news, this pasta tastes delicious after you heat it up too!
Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola (Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound penne pasta (I like Penne Lisce)
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmigiano Cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush thme into the pan sith your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cook for 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches (I used a stick blender, so easy) until you have a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta in the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup grated parmigiano and serve with fresh oregano and another sprinkle of cheese, (if you want to be fancy).