nick & toni’s penne with vodka sauce (by way of ina)
I’m sure I’m overloading the Contessa-related recipes in my little space here on the inter-webs (I know, when will the madness end?), but hands down this is the BEST thing I have ever cooked, of all time, ever, x infinity. Seriously. The reason is likely because I saw this first on Barefoot Contessa when she paid a visit to some fabulous, quaint little Italian restaurant in New England to show off the dish – so this is restaurant-grade taste here to begin with. I think it’s pretty easy as the long time in the oven does most of the work. I usually throw chicken or Italian sausage in, because heaven help give my husband a dish with no meat (HA!) – but I love it all on its own too. If you want to impress someone or just have an awesome dish for your husband Jeffrey who only comes in for dinner on Friday nights, this is your ticket.
1/4 cup good olive oil (HA!)
1 medium Spanish 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
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese (I usually go easier on this then they say as I like it more saucy – whatever your preference)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, then heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add 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.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands (LOOK OUT THEY SPLASH!) Add 2 tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover 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.
Then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. 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.
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, if you want to be fancy like Ina. Here is the original recipe. ENJOY!