Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

To the good people at Target Corporation:

I must apologize sincerely. I have been accidentally stealing from your store pretty much every time I go there. Technically I can blame it on the children, but really the responsibility rests solely on my shoulders. Here’s what happens – I have a baby in a car seat resting in the basket of the cart. I have a toddler riding in the seat of the cart. I have a preschooler who is incapable of walking at a reasonable pace and either drags behind touching everything on the shelves or runs six aisles ahead of me. I have a lot on my mind and a lot to buy.

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

The problem arises when I buy more than one tiny item. You see, I can fit maybe two boxes of diapers in the bottom of the cart and then the whole thing turns into a clown car situation. I’m stuffing bottles of shampoo under my toddler’s arms and sliding tubes of toothpaste into the tiny space between the car seat and the cart. When it comes time to check out I must search for everything I’ve hidden amongst the children while trying to keep my daughter from grabbing things from the adjacent register. I try to find everything, I really do. I’ve even increased my efforts, knowing that things are hiding there somewhere. Still, it happens. I inevitably get to the car and unload the bags and children and discover that one rogue item that went unpaid.

What am I to do in this situation? By this time all the kids are strapped in the car, making it insanely difficult to reload them in the cart and head back into the store to pay (although I have done this when I accidentally stole diapers). The cashier is unbearably confused when I try, the next time I’m there, to pay for something that I took home on my last trip but don’t want to take home today (as I did when I stole milk). My heart is heavy with guilt when I just keep the item to avoid any sort of effort or confrontation (as I did when I stole scotch tape). Now one could argue that its just a small item here or there and it won’t matter, but its definitely starting to add up. So I ask, what am I to do??

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola
Luckily we received a heavy snowfall today, essentially trapping me in the house. I can’t steal anything when I’m trapped in the house stuffing my face with pasta. This pasta is a great diversion. If you’ve never made a vodka sauce you are seriously missing out. The alcohol cooks off leaving a rich flavor behind. Although it is a lengthy process preparing the sauce, much of it is unattended simmering. Served with lots of crusty bread and a green salad this dish makes the perfect snowy day comfort food. And I swear I didn’t steal any of the ingredients. At least this time.

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

Penne alla Vecchia Bettola
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 28 ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces penne
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Heat oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook 1 minute more. Add the vodka and simmer 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half. Using your hands, crush each tomato into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and stir. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven. Bake 1½ hours.
  3. Working in batches, carefully pour the tomato mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return the tomato mixture to the sauté pan. Add the fresh oregano, cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Simmer partially covered for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Serve hot sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh oregano.


  1. says

    I’ve only ever bought vodka sauce in a jar (or mixed already and marinara together and called it vodka sauce…). I love the canned stuff and vodka in general, so I’m definitely going to need to try this!

    If Target makes it too hard to pay for it later, either enjoy your free stuff or keep a list of everything you “should’ve” paid for and set the money asside. When you get to a reasonable sum ($20-50?), donate it to charity. Then there’s no reason to feel bad :)


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