Ina Garten's Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola

February 2, 2016

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

Serves: 4 to 5, with leftover sauce
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hrs 10 min


  • 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
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (54) Questions (0)

54 Reviews

Michelle D. November 20, 2018
Question – I just moved and all I have is a glass lasagna dish – can I use that and cover with foil instead of a Dutch Oven? Thanks!
Kristen M. November 20, 2018
As long as it's covered tightly and has plenty of room for the sauce without approaching the rim, that should be fine!
Cheryl November 16, 2018
Delicious! To make it vegan, instead of cream I used a cashew-based "creme fraiche" that I made. Next time I would just use 1/4 tsp of the red pepper flakes. And yes, it's easy to make. <br /> Thank you!
Gal November 16, 2018
I agree, delicious sauce. I too made a vegan version and I used coconut milk instead the heavy cream, which added a wonderfully rich flavor and worked well in this recipe. (No, the sauce did not taste like Coconut). Also, Coconut milk is lactose free so its a good choice for those with lactose intolerance. Cheryl, I love your idea of using cashew-based "creme fraiche".
Dennis S. November 5, 2018
This sauce. Crazy good and easy to make. My daughter who isn't a very big fan of pasta dishes could not get enough of this sauce.
meme S. July 28, 2018
A great pasta dish with a luscious sauce with shrimps or without. Always a hit!
Susan M. January 25, 2018
This sauce is amazing! Made a double batch, put some in a quart container, box of good penne, Italian bread and a bottle of good Italian red wine to welcome some new neighbors. They loved it! Have also added some fresh shrimp and basil for a casual company dinner. Ina is the BEST!
Marianne January 10, 2018
Has anyone doubled this or made it ahead of time?
Shaun January 11, 2018
I have done both (quadrupled it for our “All Pasta Xmas” three weeks ago), and the recipe scaled beautifully.<br />I made the sauce two days ahead in a large Dutch oven, then gently reheated it and added it to the fresh pasta on Xmas day. It was a huge hit!
Erin A. January 11, 2018
I have also quadrupled it and made it to the point, just before the cream, several days, even a week in advance. Also, after having used vodka several times, I haver also now tried it with super cheap guaro (Costa Rican booze) and it was just as delicious.
Marianne January 11, 2018
Thanks! Did you make the pasta right before serving or ahead of time? I'm wondering if I can put it all together in advance and warm it up...
Marianne January 11, 2018
Also, do you think doubling is enough for 10?
Shaun January 11, 2018
Yes. 4x was more than enough for 19.
Erin A. January 11, 2018
I made the pasta right before serving :)
SandraH November 13, 2017
Made this last week for the first time - a luscious sauce, very rich and silken with just the right amount of heat. Next time, I may also add shrimp as someone previously suggested or mild Italian sausage.
Erin A. April 30, 2017
This was absolutely amazing! I accidentally doubled the pepper and the chili flakes but it was off the charts. Thanks for sharing the recipe. <br />
GourMel February 9, 2017
Mmmm this sounds so exciting! Any thoughts on subbing the plum tomatoes with Pomi chopped tomatoes (all I have, too cold to go to the grocery store, I want pasta now, etc.)? Should I dial it back or same amounts should be fine? Thank you!
fudgefactor February 9, 2017
I always have various types of tomato sauces and oven-roasted tomatoes in my freezer, and even whole, unpeeled tomatoes that I didn't have time to process. I substitute whatever seems best for the canned tomatoes in a recipe. May not come out exactly as designed but it's always delicious. IMHO you should use what you have - especially when it is cold, snowy, or crazy wet outside.
fudgefactor February 2, 2017
Could someone please fix the print version of this page. In Chrome on an iMac most of it is converted to one giant link (blu, underlined) making it hard to read. It's been like that for several days.
Kristen M. February 3, 2017
Hi fudgefactor, this should be fixed now—thank you for letting us know, and sorry about the pesky blue lines.
fudgefactor February 3, 2017
Fixed it is! Thank you for the prompt attention, and for the 'thread' email letting me know it was fixed - even if that's an automatic part of the system. Great customer service as always.
cosmiccook January 27, 2017
I can't wait to try this sauce--I think I'll add a parm rind or two, a mushed anchovy and save my pasta water (I cook per Serious Eats) to add at the end.
Debraj76 January 10, 2017
This was fantastic! It made PLENTY, so we had the pleasure of enjoying leftovers. Just days after discovering this recipe on your blog, I saw one almost identical on the site of a very well known blogger, who was listing her favorite crockpot recipes. I did comment (nicely) that her version was almost identical to Ina's (and specifically named the recipe), but that I was looking forward to trying hers with the slight tweaks she made (she added one ingredient). I was sad to see that she deleted my comment. Perhaps I'm a bit sensitive to the lack of credit to the original inspiration source, as I'm in the design field and have seen our work appear elsewhere. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for highlighting this delicious recipe...AND for giving credit where credit is due!
karencooks January 5, 2017
Great method for making homemade tomato sauce and there was no hint of vodka. The sauce was delicious and I didn't even add the cream. Will freeze the leftover sauce and add some cream next time!
Grant D. December 20, 2016
I made this, delicious, but I have two tips. One, don't bother breaking out the nice San Marianas for this recipe, there's so much else going on its just a waste. 2, I simmered the vodka for a full 7 minutes, then two more. The final result still tasted quite boozey. When you watch the video clip from barefoot contessa, they use nowhere near a cup. I'm going to use half as much vodka next time.
Pisanella January 23, 2017
Great tip, thanks!
Jessica October 2, 2016
Lovely. Only used half of the salt, and due to a strong dislike of fresh oregano, used fresh basil. Only needed a splash of cream, too.
Gal September 5, 2016
This is an amazing sauce. For a vegan option I substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream, which added a wonderfully rich flavor and worked well in this recipe. Coconut milk is also lactose free so its a good choice for those with lactose intolerance.
Traci April 25, 2017
Awesome, Gal! I've been trying to decide between soy and coconut milk for veganizing've just made my day!
Gal April 25, 2017
:-) you're welcome, Traci. Coconut milk also provides some essential nutrients that cream lacks, such as vitamin C and iron.
Jo August 20, 2016
This recipe is originally from Alla Vecchia Bettola, a restaurant in Florence. The owners of Nick & Toni's went to Italy, had this dish, and talked the chef into giving them the recipe. It’s been on Nick and Toni’s menu for 22 years. Definitely go and try the original version of this dish if you happen to be in Florence! It's amazing!
Jasmin R. June 1, 2016
Just made this. My husband and I loved it, and we'll certainly keep it in the rotation. It definitely makes much more sauce than needed for 1 package of pasta, so yay, no need to cook again tomorrow. Great recipe. Thanks for sharing!
rparagus June 1, 2016
Do you add onion sauce to tomatoes before you put it in the oven?
ryanbissoon April 27, 2016
This is the best thing I've eaten in recent memory, and I made it myself! Fantastic recipe. Only augmentation is I added a few anchovy filets. Because I love anchovy!