Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Straight from the famous Nick & Toni's in the Hamptons, I decided to try my hand at an authentic Italian Vodka sauce from scratch. The restaurant chef was featured on the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network preparing this exact recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly. However, I added a bit more red pepper flakes than the recipe called for. The smell was invigorating. My little apartment smelled like a restaurant straight out of Florence. The result was near perfection. I don't think I'll add the extra pepper next time around though - as the dish was a bit on the spicy side. I served the sauce with Rigatoni instead of Penne and it was a hit with my friends. We ate the dish with French bread and a big salad. Wonderful first recipe and experience to post about! Serve with a full-bodied Cabernet or Pinot Noir and enjoy.


1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and 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 them into the pan with 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 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is 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 into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

TIPS: I used one medium white onion instead of a "spanish onion." I also used Hunts whole peeled tomatos (no mention of "plum" on the label).

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