Pasta Alla Vecchia Bettola


Pasta Alla Vecchia Bettola  |  Basil~Caesar Salad

Intro Collage

Years ago, as a young, newlywed couple, Michael and I found ourselves living in Princeton, New Jersey.  The significance of that location had nothing to do with the ivy~league University anchoring that quaint little town but rather its prime geographic location among the Mid~Atlantic states. At the time, I was working in Manhattan, NYC and Michael’s office was in Philadelphia, PA…Princeton was located smack dab in the middle.  Budding careers and long commutes meant our refrigerator often contained nothing more than milk {for morning coffee} and a few sticks of butter {for popcorn, of course}…we dined out A LOT.  One of our all~time favorite dinner spots back then was the incredible, authentic Italian restaurant ~ Diamonds.  Located in the famed Chambersburg restaurant district of nearby Trenton, Diamonds was the real deal for out-of-this-world Italian food.  Their menu was long and deep but if you couldn’t find what your tastebuds were craving they would “whip up” something to suit your fancy.  There was one item on the menu that we always ordered when we dined at Diamonds…the Vodka Rigatoni…every. single. time.  Most likely the simplest dish on the menu, it was addictive:  homemade tender, fresh pasta coated with a rich, savory sauce featuring slow~roasted tomatoes and reduced vodka and possessing the texture of liquid velvet.  Tonight’s pasta dinner reminded me of that Diamonds’ specialty from so many years ago.

I came across this Ina Garten recipe over at the Alexandra’s Kitchen blog a couple of week’s ago and I have been thinking of it ever since.  This is easy comfort food, perfect for these dark autumn evenings.  The star of the show…


Good~quality {I used the San Marzano brand} canned, peeled tomatoes are drained of their juices and then hand~crushed into a sautĂ© of onions, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano and vodka…


An hour and a half in the oven brings out the most intense flavor of the vodka infused vegetables and herbs…


A spin in the blender transforms the mixture into a smooth sauce…


And, with a swirl of heavy cream…


The sauce takes on that velvet~like texture I remember so very well…


Your favorite pasta and a heaping portion of freshly grated Parmesan cheese…


Results in this magnificent dish…


Pasta Alla Vecchia Bettola
Serves 6
A simple, comforting pasta featuring a sauce of vodka~infused & slow~roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic & herbs blended until smooth and finished with a swirl of heavy cream giving the sauce a velvet~like texture.
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
2 hr
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 1 large yellow onion, peeled & chopped to yield 2 1/2 cups
  3. 5 cloves of garlic, pushed through a garlic press
  4. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1 cup vodka
  7. 2 {28-ounce} cans peeled, whole plum tomatoes
  8. Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  9. 1 pound penne pasta
  10. 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
  11. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  12. Grated fresh Parmigiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven~proof skillet {that has a tight~fitting lid} over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until just beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for one more minute. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5~7 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. While the onion~garlic~vodka mixture is reducing, drain the tomatoes through a sieve. Working very carefully {these red, juice~filled balloons really pop} hand crush each of the whole tomatoes into the reserved onion mixture. Add a generous pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Cover the pan and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
  4. When finished, remove the tomato~onion mixture from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Place the mixture into a blender and puree in batches until the sauce becomes smooth. Return the pureed sauce to the original pan.
  5. Reheat the sauce, adding 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce creamy ~ start with a 1/4 cup and keep adding, slowly, until the desired consistency is achieved. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  6. While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta according to package directions. When the pasta is finished, drain and toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in a generous handful {or two} of grated cheese. Serve on individual plates with an additional sprinkle of cheese and fresh oregano.
Adapted from Ina Garten via the Alexandra's Kitchen blog
Our favorite Basil~Caesar Salad accompanied our pasta dinner this evening {click on the image below to be taken to the recipe}…

Caesar Salad Collage


Our dinner plate …



K Initial

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