Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

The first time I saw this dish made was on Food Network "Barefoot Contessa". I knew right away I had to try it. The name may sound intimidating but the dish is pretty much just pasta with a vodka tomato sauce. It's very simple to make with not that many ingredients.

The flavor ended up being rich and intense but uncomplicated at the same time. I really enjoyed it. I had to get the leftovers in the fridge right away because I couldn't stop picking in it.

Start by sauteing the onions and garlic in oil until the onions are translucent.

Add the red pepper flakes and oregano and cook 1 minute more.

Correction: (Add the tequila and simmer until reduced by half. I used Cuervo white tequila.)  <----Ok, this is really wrong. I must of had tequila on the brain for some reason. I actually bought white tequila but it was for a different recipe. VODKA, add vodka at this point in the recipe.

Drain the whole tomatoes then crush them by hand into the pan.

Add salt and pepper, cover and cook in the oven.

The recipe says to process the sauce in a blender until smooth but I like mine with some
texture, so I just used an immersion blender,,,,,, 

until it looked like this.

I didn't have any fresh oregano so I just added some more dried and just over a
cup of half and half, instead of heavy cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

Even though I used the half and half it was wonderfully creamy.

Add the cooked pasta and cook for a few,

then the parmesan cheese,

and I added some fresh parsley.

I served it with "Roasted Garlic Green Beans".
Really simple and delicious.

Blanch fresh green beans in the salted water that you have boiling for your pasta for 3-4 minutes.
You want them to still have a nice bite to them so don't over cook them.

Take them from the boiling water and get them directly into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

Look at the nice color they keep. Once there cooled down,

spread them out on a kitchen towel or paper towels and dry them off a bit.

Use the same water to cook your pasta.

Place them on a baking sheet with 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic,
salt and pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Spread them out to a single layer.

I broiled mine in a toaster oven for about 15-20 minutes on 400* but you can just as easily cook
them in a 450* oven for about the same amount of time. Just start checking them after 15 minutes. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola


1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
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
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons fresh oregano (I added fresh parsley) 
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
Grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan 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 into the pan with your hands. Add 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.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency (or for a chunkier sauce you can use an immersion blender). Return to the pan.

Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce 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 or fresh parsley on each plate.


  1. Wow! Looks like I have another reason to purchase more tequila. I STILL make your fish tacos. Everyone who has them loves them. I could open a taco stand with how popular they are.
    I will try this recipe too.
    yo sista

  2. Lol, it's actually vodka Gina, but I'm sure a shot of tequila with supper would work.