Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola is an Italian dish that roughly translates to Old Tavern Pasta. Sometimes referred to as Vodka pasta, this dish is the perfect blend of ingredients to produces a true restaurant quality meal.
My inspiration for this amazing dish was Ina Garten’s Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola on foodnetwork.com.
What You’ll Need For This Recipe
The sauce uses ingredients that are somewhat typical of Italian tomato sauces.
- The Tomatoes: This amazing sauce uses canned plum tomatoes.
- The Aromatics: For the aromatics, this recipe uses onions and garlic that have been sautéed in olive oil.
- The Seasonings: For the seasonings, I used Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes.
- The Liquids: This wouldn’t be referred to as vodka pasta without vodka. In addition to the vodka, the sauce included the liquid from the canned tomatoes and heavy cream (not pictured).
- Final Ingredients: The final ingredients, not pictured were freshly grated Parmesan cheese and cooked Penne pasta
How To Make The Sauce
The steps in making the awesome sauce are relatively minimal.
- First, I sautéed the onions and garlic in olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat for several minutes. Then, I added the red pepper flakes and the oregano.
Next, I added the vodka and continued cooking the ingredients until the liquid was reduced by about half.
- While the onions and garlic were cooking, I drained the tomatoes in a colander and removed as many of the seeds as possible.
Then, I crushed the tomatoes with my hands into the Dutch oven containing the onion/garlic mixture. I also added the juices from the drained tomatoes to the Dutch oven.
- I mixed all of the ingredients together and added a bit of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Then, I covered the Dutch oven and placed it into a preheated 375°F oven for 1 ½ hours.
- After 1 ½ hours, I removed the Dutch oven from the oven. The sauce was a bit burned looking around the edges and seemed pretty thick. However, the mixture was perfectly cooked.
- After the mixture had cooled for about 15 minutes, I puréed batches in the blender until the sauce was smooth. Then I poured the puréed sauce into a clean pan.
Finishing The Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola (Vodka Pasta)
After I reheated the tomato sauce, I added the cream and Parmesan cheese. Then, I stirred the mixture until the cream was well incorporated and the cheese was melted.
Finally, I added the cooked Penne and tossed it with the sauce.
I served the Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola with freshly baked Crusty French bread, a chilled Chardonnay, and some grated Parmesan cheese on top.
The dish truly was restaurant quality. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s really the sauce that makes this recipe amazing. Therefore, feel free to substitute Ziti, Rotini, Spaghetti or Linguini for the Penne.
You really can’t taste the vodka in the sauce. However, it does add a depth and richness to the sauce that would be missing if the vodka was eliminated.
The alcohol in the sauce is cooked off. Any remaining alcohol is negligible.
If desired, you can substitute white wine for the vodka. The taste, however, will be somewhat different. Also, it won’t be called Vodka Pasta!
You can eliminate the vodka. The taste will be somewhat different though. Because of the other liquids in the sauce, there is no need to replace the vodka.
Feel free to make the sauce ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
As it true with many tomato-based pastas, the Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola or Vodka Pasta produces amazing leftovers.
You should use unflavored vodka in this recipe.
The Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola is one of the first recipes that I featured in Pudge Factor – February 15, 2012. Since then, I’ve made it a number of times with consistently amazing results. I decided to update the original post with updated photos and text. However, the original recipe remains unchanged.
Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola (Vodka Pasta)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 cup vodka (See Tip 1)
- 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes (See Tip 2)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package instructions (See Tip 3)
- ½ cup Grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
- Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat the olive oil in an oven proof Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano; cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
- Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes in a colander retaining the liquid. Remove as many of the seeds as possible. Crush the tomatoes into the Dutch oven with your hands. Add the drained liquid from the tomatoes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 ½ 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 purée in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan. (See Tip 4)
- Reheat the sauce. Add the cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Correct the seasonings, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped Italian parsley on each plate.
- Yield: 6 servings.
Chula’s Expert Tips
- Be sure to use unflavored vodka in this recipe.
- If possible, use canned San Marzano tomatoes. However, other varieties of canned tomatoes will also work.
- Feel free to substitute a different pasta for the Penne such as Ziti, Rotini, Spaghetti or Linguini.
- The sauce can be prepared in advance up to the point of puréeing the sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Then proceed as above.