This is Ina Garten's version of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola, which has been on the menu at Nick and Toni's in East Hampton, NY for more than 20 years. Here's the secret to its success: You take this perfectly adequate sauce and roast it in the oven for an hour and a half. The sauce concentrates and the tomatoes caramelize and turn jammy, melding with all the other flavors more conclusively than they would in a speedier stovetop number. This oven-roasting technique is a boon to tomato sauces everywhere—not just vodka. Recipe adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust (Clarkson Potter, 2012). —Genius Recipes
2 hours 10 minutes
4 to 5, with leftover sauce
good olive oil
2 1/2 cups
chopped Spanish onion (1 large)
minced garlic (3 cloves)
crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons
28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
penne rigate or other short pasta shape (Note: Original recipe called for 12 ounces, but this pasta makes plenty of sauce, so go ahead and cook the whole box)
chopped fresh oregano, plus extra for serving
heavy cream (or less, to taste)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
In This Recipe
Heat oven to 375° F.
Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) ovenproof sauté pan—the pan should have a tight-fitting lid (if you don't have one, use a Dutch oven)—over medium heat, uncovered. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vodka and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. (Editor's note: Save the tomato juice for Bloody Marys or in the freezer for other sauces, or leave it in—it won't hurt this sauce, it will only take longer to cook down.) Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon 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.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
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 1 tablespoon fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sauce to the pasta, reserving any excess, 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. Save any extra sauce for more pasta or vodka pizza with fresh mozzarella.
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