Monday, August 16, 2010

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Months back, I posted my revised version of Nick And Toni's Penne alla Vecchia Bettola. It's this wonderful penne alla vodka that The Barefoot Contessa featured on her show.

I made it again today. And once again, I messed with the recipe a bit but it's pretty close to Joseph Realmuto's original.
The fresh oregano really took the flavors to a different level. I added sweet Italian sausage to mine but you can totally leave it out to keep it vegetarian. Either way it's DELISH! It was such a hit with my kids that I had to fill up their plates three times.

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Revised by Foodism Mom from Joseph Realmuto's original recipe 


  • olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 5 sweet Italian sausage links, removed from casings (you can leave out to make it vegetarian)
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large oven pot or dutch oven 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 directly into the pot with your hands. Add 1 1/2 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.
While the tomatoes are in the oven, heat up 2 teaspoons of olive oil a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and while breaking it up with a wooden spoon, saute until cooked through and golden brown. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Remove bay leaves. Place the tomato mixture in a blender (or if you use an immersion hand blender, you do not need to cool the sauce and you can blend it right in the pot) and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
Reheat the sauce over medium heat, stir in the fresh oregano, sausage and heavy cream. When it comes back to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and simmer for two more minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Put pasta into a large serving bowl, spoon in enough sauce to generously coat the pasta (you may have sauce leftover, great-you'll have lunch for the next day!). Toss until well combined. Serve with a side of Parmesan.

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