Ina Garten

So you may or may not have heard of this wonderful lady, Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) on a little network called the Food Network.  All of her recipes and advice are wonderful.  I am new to the Ina love affair (I am ashamed to say).  I don't know what happened, if something changed in her or I, but I can't seem to get enough of her all of a sudden.  All of her dishes are so classic and simple.  And I don't think it'll be much longer before the Mr. starts singing her praise as well.  He mentioned last night all we seem to eat is Mexican food.  And it's true, I could easily live on Mexican food, with an occasional sushi trip, for the rest of my life and never think twice about it.  Anyways, back to Ina.  If you haven't checked her out, well, what is wrong with you?!

Nick & Toni's Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola


1/4 cup good olive oil
2 1/2 cups chopped Spanish onion (1 large)
1 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus extra for serving
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the red pepper and dried oregano and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vodka and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half.
When the onions are ready, crush each tomato with your hands into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook for 11 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Carefully pour the cooked tomato mixture in a blender in small batches and puree until smooth. Return the tomato mixture to the pan (be careful - the handle is hot!). Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 2 tablespoons of the fresh oregano, and the cream and simmer partially covered for 10 minutes. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve hot sprinkled with extra Parmesan and chopped fresh oregano.

*I had read reviews that it was much easier if you substituted the 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes for crushed tomatoes.  So I used crushed tomatoes and skipped the blender step.  It still turned out amazing in my opinion.  And as with most sauces, it was better the next day.  So good, go make it! (Sorry I'm being so bossy today!...Okay, maybe I'm not.)

Oh, and make these Ina blueberry muffins too!

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