This is a vegan Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola—a plant-based version of the classic recipe from Nick & Toni’s restaurant in the Hamptons, New York. It’s pasta alla vodka with a rich, deeply flavorful, roasted tomato sauce, and it’s lightened up with some silky (and dairy-free!) cashew cream.
This recipe is delicious, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
It’s a vegan spin on Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola, a Florentine recipe has found its way to many places around the world. One of those places is Nick & Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton. Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola has been on the Nick & Toni’s menu for twenty plus years.
Ina Garten has created popularized this recipe with a version of her own. Her version has a lot of adoring fans, me included. When I saw it in the Food52 Genius column in 2016, I knew I wanted to try making a vegan Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola.
The name of this dish translates to “old tavern pasta.” It’s appropriate, I guess, since the recipe is so cozy and homey.
Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola is made with a creamy roasted tomato vodka sauce. Slow roasting the tomatoes is what gives the recipe its intensity of flavor. Cream—in this case, cashew cream—is what helps to keep it just light enough.
The cooking time for the vegan Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola is considerable because of the roasting time required. But it’s inactive work, and it’s so, so worth it.
It’s pretty hard to improve on an Ina Garten recipe, and I wouldn’t try. My version of her version of the Nick & Toni dish is as faithful as can be. The only big difference I make, aside from the cashew cream, is that I reduce the oil in the recipe by half.
I also use a little less salt. Ina uses Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, which is my go-to for home cooking. You can substitute fine sea salt, but then you’ll want to use about half of the salt listed, because fine sea salt has greater salinity than Diamond Crystal Kosher.
I’m sure that there are a lot of other ways to modify the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola. You use chopped or diced tomatoes, instead of whole peeled. You could use fresh tomatoes in place of canned. I think you could successfully omit the oil, though the sauce might lose some of its flavor and richness.
But when I’m veganizing a recipe that’s just about perfect, I tend to leave it alone. And that’s what I’ve done here.
Yes, you can! The vodka acts to intensify and enhance the flavor of the sauce. It can also help to emulsify it. But the sauce is still legitimately wonderful without the vodka. If you would prefer to leave it out, just omit the ingredient in step 1, reducing the sauce without it.
If you don’t have vodka at home, but you do have some white wine, you can use it as a 1:1 replacement in the vegan Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola recipe. Otherwise, skip the vodka and proceed with the recipe. It’ll still taste great!
Full disclosure, I’ve never tried this recipe with anything other than cashew cream. But one “hack” I’ve used in creamy vegan sauces before is to blend up vegan cream cheese and water. I’m sure that would work well in the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola.
Additionally, I think that plain cashew or almond yogurt would work well in the recipe. So would a plain/unsweetened vegan creamer of choice.
Honestly, though? For creamy sauces, I tend to find that cashews can’t be beat. I like to make my cashew cream in big batches and freeze it in glass jars (always with some space at the top, since frozen liquids expand!) for 4-6 weeks at a time. I’m never sorry when I realize that I can pop some out of the freezer at a moment’s notice.
If you like, you can prepare the sauce in advance and store it for up to four days in the fridge. To serve the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola, boil your pasta. Add the pre-made, stored sauce to the drained pasta with fresh oregano as instructed in step four.
The pasta sauce can be frozen for up to 1 month.
The leftovers of this pasta dish keep nicely for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge. And yes, they can be frozen! I’ve frozen my leftovers for up to six weeks at a time. This is a pasta recipe that I like best when it’s freshly made, but I always polish off the leftovers happily.
Creamy, saucy pasta is one of my favorite things. (It’s right up there with cake.) If this recipe speaks to you, then here are a few other favorite creamy, cozy, carby meal options to explore!
I hope you’ll love Ina’s veganized classic as much as I do. It hits the spot every time.