Sunday, October 17, 2010

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina.  It starts out similar to a basic spaghetti sauce, but becomes SO much more.  Perfect for an impressive weekend dinner.

As you can tell by the name, it’s meant to be made with penne pasta – but when I made it for the first time, I didn’t have any - so I made due with elbow noodles.  I’ve made it again since, and actually found I like it best with campanelle noodles.

My side dishes with this dinner tend to be garlic bread or bruschetta, and a refreshing wedge salad (blue cheese, bacon, & tomatoes over a wedge of iceberg and spicy ranch or parmesan dressing).

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow 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
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof sauté 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.

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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. Return to the pan.

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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 on each plate.

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