Make Ahead

Ina Garten's Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola

March 18, 2021
28 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 5, with leftover sauce
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
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Ina Garten's Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Spanish onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 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
  • 1 pound 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)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, plus extra for serving
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
  5. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • tesstraylor
  • Joyce Gordon
    Joyce Gordon
  • Jaclyn Kramer
    Jaclyn Kramer
  • Scott Basye
    Scott Basye
  • Tenely Smith
    Tenely Smith
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

97 Reviews

DeeDee October 24, 2023
Hi. I want to make this amazing recipe and triple it. Do I have to adjust the roasting time for the tomatoes??
chpayne April 19, 2023
I love this recipe and look forward to making it next week. I don't have a blender at this time. I do have an imersable blender but I think it would just spatter across my stove top or counters. I would appreciate any suggestions.
Jessica April 20, 2023
I used an immersible blender and did not have any issues with spatter. If you use a Dutch oven, the pot should be deep enough to contain any of it. Good Luck!
Teresa C. January 30, 2023
Great and easy sauce recipe! I always have some in the freezer, and use it for all kinds of pasta and lasagna.
JessicaRC January 20, 2023
This recipe is a comfort 💣. It’s rich. It’s easy. The ingredients can be easily found. I think there has been just one recipe from Ina that I thought was no big deal. Everything else that I’ve made has been knock your socks off good. Thank you, Ina!
tesstraylor January 15, 2023
I’ve been looking for a good Vodka sauce recipe! and plan to make this. One question, can I freeze the leftover sauce? Omit the cream before I freeze it, add before reheating? Thinking I could place the frozen sauce into one of my small Dutch ovens, diluted a bit and proceed from there. —signed “newly single gal”
jennimckayla September 2, 2022
This is my favorite pasta recipe! I have to stop myself from eating too much. I've made it multiple times, with some variations, but sticking close to the recipe (and using Cento San Marzano tomatoes) is hands down the best way to make this.
tesstraylor January 15, 2023
Cento is my go-to as well!
LaVillaCucina August 29, 2021
A nice recipe, SADLY NOT the authentic. Since 1979 Alla Vecchia Bettola, a beloved trattoria in the San Frediano district of Florence, Italy. Their version is Cucina Tipica Fiorentina, simple yet sophisticated...

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds Italian canned plum tomatoes, hand crushed
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound dried rigged penne, cooked until al dente
3 tablespoons vodka
1 cup heavy cream
20 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally or until thickened. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add cooked pasta; bring to a simmer. Add vodka, stir gently for 1 minute, then add cream. Cook until thickened. Garnish with parsley before serving.
Nancy M. August 29, 2021
The notes say clearly that it is her version so obviously not the original. It's very good. If you prefer the original version then that's the one you should make.
SuperWittySmitty October 13, 2021
There's always someone who comes along & insists on adding another recipe, insisting that's it's better. So annoying.
Grambo101! March 5, 2022
What part of “Ina Garten’s version…” do you not understand? Good Lord, some people … this recipe is outstanding, BTW
jennimckayla September 2, 2022
The only thing that's different about this recipe is the parsley and cooking method. Ina Garten swears by baking the sauce and it really adds a lot to the flavor. Always good to see original recipes but the beauty of food and cooking is the way it evolves and improves over time.
jodyrah February 26, 2023
“Authentic” does not mean better. IMO many authentic recipes are just a starting point to be adapted to one’s taste.
SuperWittySmitty February 26, 2023
Yes, but you're not a known cook and you're not an authority. Ina Garten is beloved and trusted, so her version is what most of us are here for.
2tattered April 18, 2023
Sad you’re sad, said the Tiny Violin.
brushjl December 8, 2020
Agree with the other reviewers this was outstanding. I didn't change anything. Beautiful dish.
Joyce G. July 28, 2020
Can I half this recipe? Would the amounts just be in half? What about cooing time?
jennimckayla September 2, 2022
You definitely can, I would just watch the pot in the oven so the sides don't burn, maybe cut the cooking time down by 20 minutes.
Gem July 17, 2020
We made this dish a few nights ago and it was excellent! Thank you for sharing the recipe with us, we'll definitely be making it again.
Hoo384 June 24, 2020
I just made this. Despite (or because of) its simplicity, it really is very delicious. On one of the Food52 videos I watched for this recipe, they used radiatori pasta (shaped like little radiators). I would highly recommend them because it absorbs the sauce so well.
MK June 23, 2020
Outstanding and surprisingly simple! It's pretty rich so not something I'll make often, but this recipe is definitely a keeper. I never cook with cream; used half and half instead because it was in the fridge.
cosmiccook May 19, 2020
The Serious Eats and explain the science behind this method and its wonderful flavor. I wasn't aware about Ina's recipe. If you can get access Restaurant Depot they carry an Italian (DOP) San Marzano 5 lb can of tomatoes for $7 (N.O. price). It really makes all the difference if you're looking for a rich, dark sauce.
Ann May 19, 2020
How can I access Restaurant Depot? Do I need to be a business/wholesaler?
cosmiccook May 19, 2020
You need a tax ID number from a business--or someone you know does. Membership is FREE--and you typically get a few cards and/or share.
Megan May 18, 2020
Made as written except used crushed tomatoes. Made it in my Staub braiser and used immersion blender. Excellent flavor and depth. Can't wait to use the leftover sauce on pizza night!
meme S. April 3, 2020
To Jaclyn K. If you fallowed the recipe and used an oven-proof pan with tight-fitting lid or Dutch oven with tight lid, perhaps your oven temperature is off, and it can happen. I always have in my oven while I'm baking a small oven thermometer to make sure that the baking temperature is 'not off'. If you don't have one, you can get one at any hardware. Good luck! Try it. What you have to loose, except another burn meal! :) Sorry, burning a meal is not funny, but I could help the smile of my expression. Any way during these hard times we all need a good laugh... and please don't stop learning and don't stop cooking, it happens to the best of us.
Jaclyn K. March 28, 2020
This recipe is great, however i followed everything on here and when i took out of the oven..mmthe tomato mixture was burnt. I dont understand why! Someone help because i would love to try it again
Jill G. June 29, 2020
Hi, I just made this and my tomatoes were dark and caramelized... not burned... when I first took it out I definitely did a double take... but they had a wonderful depth of flavor.
clear176 December 21, 2019
I am currently making this and got ahead of the recipe. I put the tomatos in before the vodka. Help
Scott B. November 20, 2019
I don't think it's necessary to puree the sauce after it's reduced. Much more rustic that way and it was delish!
Bosco W. April 17, 2020
Same here! And the heavy cream is definitely an option ;)
kisa February 1, 2022
Thank you. I was put off by the puree bit and wondered if I could skip it.
Tenely S. November 13, 2019
Finally made this, as written. It was A.Mazing! New family favorite. Immersion blender is such a handy tool.
meme S. May 8, 2019
To Emily -- Yes you can make this dish without the vodka by using vegetable or chicken broth. Voila... Good luck and enjoy! Meme