Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola – pasta recipe with Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce from the famous East Hampton’s restaurant: Nick and Toni’s, featured by Ina Garten on Food Network – Barefoot Contessa; with my little twist of using fresh tomatoes from my own garden.
I remember the first time I saw the episode of the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, when Ina Garten met with a chef from Nick and Toni’s. I was literally drooling while they were preparing this awesome Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola. I knew that I had to make it one day. The idea of slow roasting tomatoes in the oven was just brilliant. Recently I saw this episode again and the light bulb lit up in my head – I need to make it with my own tomatoes from my very own garden. This recipe is a perfect Italian meal. It can serve as dinner, lunch, side dish to some light, grilled meats or vegetarian main dish. You name it!
Oh yeah, I’ve been trying my hand at gardening. I’ve been “producing produce!” I am so proud of my gardens. I only have herbs, tomatoes and peppers; but it is such an amazing feeling to grow something from the scratch. I’ve had so many tomatoes that I needed to come up with many creative ways to use them. Hence, this delicious pasta came to my mind. I used my fresh Roma Tomatoes, instead of canned tomatoes, and the result was simply outstanding.
This Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola pasta dish is one of the most popular posts on my blog. I originally published it on September 16, 2015. Since then I received number of comments and questions that I would like to address. Below are Frequently Asked Questions and my answers to them. If you feel like I didn’t answer all of them please leave a comment. Also the tomatoes season is approaching here in New York so I feel like it is an appropriate time to bring this recipe back to live. I previously updated my other very popular post: Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with FAQs and it was well appreciated so I am hoping that this FAQ section will be also useful.
After the FAQ section you will see a step by step guide on how to make this amazing Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola.
Frequently Asked Questions about Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola:
When do you add vodka?
See first step below.
What do I replace vodka if I don’t want to use it?
You can skip it or use some white wine. The taste will be a little bit different though.
What temperature it should be cooked on the stove?
It should be cooked on medium high heat.
Can the sauce be made ahead of time?
Yes, absolutely. Keep it in a fridge and heat up when ready to serve.
My house is alcohol-free. What do I replace vodka with?
Simply skip it. It’s a flavor enhancer and there is no need to replace it.
Can you recommend lactose free alternative?
I would either use lactose free cream or a milk or if you are up for a taste: coconut milk. It will change the flavor but I’m sure it will still be delicious.
Here is a step by step guide on how to make Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola:
First: Sauté onions with garlic, red chili pepper flakes and oregano. Cook until soft and translucent. Add vodka and cook for about 7 minutes.
Then wash and cut up tomatoes into cubes. (Aren’t they beautiful?)
Add tomatoes to the onions/garlic mixture on your pan. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Transfer the pan into the oven, heat up to 375F and roast for an hour and a half. Here’s how it looks after you take it out of the oven.
Place the tomatoes/onions mix in the blender and process until smooth.
Return the sauce to your pan, add heavy cream, mix and cook for about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, shred some good quality Parmegiano Reggiano. It is really important to have a good quality, freshly shredded cheese. The taste and texture will be totally different if you use processed store bought pre-shredded cheese with questionable quality.
Add the cheese to the sauce and stir until combined. Check for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Cook pasta according to instructions, but one minute less. Add almost cooked pasta to your sauce and mix it well. You want to finish cooking pasta in the sauce.
And here it is, smooth, velvety, absolutely delicious Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola with homegrown Roma Tomateos.
Sprinkle some more cheese, black pepper and parsley on top and enjoy. You should serve it immediately for best taste and texture. However I had leftovers and we heated it up the next day for lunch, and it was still super delicious.
Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 yellow onion medium , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup vodka
- 12-15 Roma tomatoes (depending on size), diced
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 3/4 pound penne pasta
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Parsley or fresh oregano to garnish
Preheat the oven to 375F
In a oven proof skillet heat up olive oil, add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until translucent
Add garlic and chili flakes and oregano and cook for another minute
Add vodka and let it cook until reduced by half, about 5-7 minutes
In the meantime cut up the tomatoes
Add to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes
Cover the pan with the fitted lid and transfer to the oven
Roast for 1 hour and a half
Cook pasta according to instructions but 1 minute less (you want to finish cooking it in the sauce)
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and puree in a blender (be careful to cover the blender tightly with kitchen towels and do not fill up more than 1/3rd at the time)
Once all the sauce is blended, place it in the pan and add cream
Mix together and let cook for about 3 minutes
Add grated cheese and season with salt and pepper
Add pasta to the sauce, mix well and let it cook for another minute
Sprinkle with fresh herbs, more cheese and pepper and serve immediately.
You can serve it with this amazing summer salad: Horiatiki Salad with Golden Greek Peperonicini (+ enter for a chance to win Meal Kit for two, from CHEF’D)
If you like this post, you may also like these pasta dishes:
Or these recipes using fresh tomatoes: