Go Back

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

Spectacular and famed penne alla vodka from Nick & Toni's in East Hampton as shared by Ina Garten in Foolproof. This recipe originated from a beloved restaurant in Florence Italy. The old world charm comes through with every bite with deeply rich tomato flavor!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Penne Pasta, Vodka Sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings 6 servings
Author The Tiny Fairy


Vodka Sauce

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil preferred first cold press
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • teaspoons dry oregano
  • 1 cup unflavored vodka
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes prefer San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish


  • 1 pound penne pasta substitute with ziti, rigatoni or other short pasta
  • enough water to fill a pot and cook the pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
  • olive oil


  1. Position the oven rack so the Dutch oven can easily fit with the lid and preheat the oven to 375°F.

  2. Heat a ¼ cup of good olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and sauté the chopped onion and minced garlic until translucent, stirring often so the garlic doesn't burn, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the dry oregano and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Sauté for an additional minute or two before adding a cup of unflavored vodka. Simmer uncovered until reduced by half, about 5-7 minutes.

  4. With clean hands, scoop out a whole tomato at a time and crush it into the pot. Add the juice of one can (discard the remaining juice) along with 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cover with foil, secure with the lid and bake for 1½ hours.

    Note: I highly recommend a layer of foil between the sauce and the lid for easy clean-up, but it's not necessary.

  5. Just before removing the tomatoes from the oven, set a large pot of water to a boil with 2 Tablespoons salt and a little oil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. The pasta should be ready by the time the sauce is ready.

  6. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and transfer to the stove top. Discard the foil. Using a handheld immersion blender, gently pulse a few times around the pot to puree the tomatoes. Add a cup of heavy cream and 2 Tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano, stir and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

  7. Drain the pasta well and add to the vodka sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese, fresh oregano and red pepper flakes.

Recipe Notes

Ina recommends transferring the tomatoes in batches to a blender, but I thought an immersion blender would work better.  Take your time and use small pulses to minimize spatter.  The tall sides of the Dutch oven will be an advantage when using the immersion blender.  Should you select a sauté pan for the sauce, an immersion blender might not be the best way to blend the sauce smooth.  Use your judgement and take precaution when working with an extremely hot sauce. 

Adapted from Nick & Toni's recipe as shared by Ina Garten in Foolproof and Joe Realmuto on Food Network.