I saw this recipe on the Food Network show Barefoot Contessa several years ago and it simply made my mouth water. I knew I had to give this recipe a try and it has been one of my favorite pasta sauce recipes ever since. I would love to tell you that I changed up several things in this recipe to make it all my own but I can’t. This recipe for Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola is so good there is almost nothing that you can do to make it better. It’s just about perfect!
I did say “almost” though… this is completely optional but my little add in is just a little bit of bacon! The bacon adds a little bit of salty, crunchy, meatiness, which is just divine with the velvety, creamy tomato sauce. Besides is there anything that bacon doesn’t make better?
Truly though this pasta dish has everything that I love, Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Heavy Cream, Tomatoes, and Vodka. Add a little bacon to the mix and I promise you will make this recipe time and time again.
This Vodka Sauce recipe is super easy but it does take a little time because it has to roast in the oven for 1½ hours. By roasting the tomato sauce for 1 1/2 hours you get this intense, thick, and slightly caramelized flavor to the sauce. Then you add in the heavy cream, the cheese, and the crispy bacon…. and what you are left with will knock your socks off!
I hope y’all enjoy this recipe as much as I do!!
Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola
From the show Barefoot Contessa
3 Strips of Bacon, diced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic
½ Teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
1½ Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 Cup of Vodka
2-28oz Cans of Italian San Marzano, whole Plum Tomatoes
1lb Penne Pasta
3 Tablespoons of Fresh Oregano
¾ Cup Heavy Cream
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 375.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat and fry the diced bacon until crispy, then remove from the pan and set aside. Drain off the excess bacon grease then heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the red pepper flakes and the dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue to cook until the liquid had reduced by half.
Strain all the juice off the tomatoes, and then crush the tomatoes with your hands directly into the pan. Add salt and black pepper to taste. (Note if you can’t find Italian San Marzano Tomatoes add just a pinch of sugar to the sauce to replicate the sweetness from the San Marzano.)
Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven. After 1½ 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 to al dente according to the package instructions.
Place cooled tomato sauce in a blender and puree to a desired consistency. I like to have a little texture in my sauce. Return the sauce to the pan and cook over medium low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, the crispy bacon, and the heavy cream. Bring the sauce up to a simmer and taste for seasoning.
When the pasta is cooked just to al dente, strain the pasta then toss it directly into the sauce. Cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in ½ cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmigiano cheese and a sprinkle of fresh oregano.