Make Ahead

Ina Garten's Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola

March 18, 2021
4.6 Stars
Photo by Bobbi Lin
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

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Ina Garten's Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 5, with leftover sauce
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

84 Reviews

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
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?
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
Jeanean May 8, 2019
Has anyone tried making this in an instant pot? I would like to make it in the summer but it’s hot in Texas so I’m always looking for alternatives to oven cooking. Thanks
Emily January 27, 2019
I know it seems a bit strange, but I would like to make this sauce without the vodka! My mom loves it, but I am Muslim and do not cook with alcohol (though I know it cooks out). Thanks for any sub tips!
Gal January 27, 2019
Hi Emily,
Because vodka is relatively flavorless, you can use plain water in place of the vodka.
Emily January 27, 2019
Thank you!
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.
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".
Helen M. August 26, 2020
How did you make the cashew creme fraiche (and how much did you use? I am looking to make this vegan and looking for a non-coconut cream replacement.
Cheryl August 26, 2020
Helen, I forget where I got this recipe. The measurements in parentheses are for halving the batch. I usually make the full recipe and then freeze in smallish containers and put in the freezer. It’s thick, but you can always thin with water to make creamier. Enjoy!
Cashew Crème Fraîche
2 cups raw cashews (1 c)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 T) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (1 T) 1/4 cup water (2 T)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (1/4)
1. the day before using, put the cashews in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them. Cover and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Drain the soaked cashews, rinse under cold water and drain again.
3. Transfer to a blender. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, water and salt and process until smooth. The mixture will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Helen M. August 28, 2020
Thank you! It was delicious!
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!