Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Best Tomato Sauce. Ever.

Before I became vegan, I was obsessed with Ina Garten. She has an adorable husband who worships her, and makes her giggle like a teenage girl. She has the most beautiful house in East Hampton just steps from the beach. Her world is always bustling with fascinating people, usually gay men, who bring her presents and flowers and gossip. It was my favorite cooking show to watch on Saturday mornings. And while she isn’t necessarily the picture of health, she sure seems to love her life. Once I adopted a plant-based diet though, it seemed like Ina had nothing to offer me. Everything was stuffed with cheese, or rolled in bacon, or topped with whipped cream. I couldn’t even find a way to adapt it to my new lifestyle, so Ina became less a part of my culinary life, replaced by people like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Chloe Coscarelli, and Nava Atlas.

One of the last episodes I watched featured Joe Realmuto, the chef at famed Hampton’s eatery Nick and Toni’s, preparing Penne alla Vecchia Bettola. Realmuto’s recipe is similar to a penne alla vodka, and finished with cream and parmesan cheese, but I had a hunch it didn’t need those things. What resulted was the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had, smooth, bursting with layered flavors, and guaranteed to make any recipe a little bit better. I love this sauce with dishes like my Stuffed Shells with Almond Ricotta, or even just tossed with penne and topped with toasted almond breadcrumbs.

Penne all Vecchia Bettola
adapted from Joseph Realmuto
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 cup vodka
2 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof pan (choose one with a lid). Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and fresh oregano, and cook 1 minute more. Add the vodka, and simmer until the volume has decreased by half. Drain the two cans of tomatoes. Add each tomato to the pot, crushing it in your hands - take care not to squirt tomato juice all over your kitchen, as I did. Add 2 teaspoons salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Cover with a lid, and place in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Be sure to leave a hole for the steam, or your lid will pop off squirting tomato sauce all over your kitchen (I make these mistakes so you don’t have to, people!). Blend to a smooth consistency. If using immediately, transfer back to the pot, and reheat, tossing the pasta directly with the sauce. If not, store in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds great, Colleen! I feel similarly about celebrity chefs. Only difference was that my favorite was Lidia Bastianich. A lot of her recipes rely heavily on similar ingredients but can sometimes be made vegan. I may have to try this recipe of yours. I usually make pasta sauce from crushed tomatoes instead. I haven't tried using whole ones!