Ina Garten's Simple Trick Will Transform Your Vodka Sauce

Ina Garten has written 12 cookbooks and sspent decades as the owner of the specialty food store Barefoot Contessa, according to Insider. So, it's safe to say the famous food author and chef knows how to bring people together over the dinner table. Garten's recipe tips and tricks are written from her heart, and that's why people enjoy the dishes she creates. The front page of her website reads, "There's nothing like a home-cooked meal to make everyone feel happy and loved."

The famous chef's recipe for penne alla vodka pasta is nothing short of extraordinary. The zesty tomato sauce is made with crushed tomatoes, onion, and garlic, then baked to flavorful perfection. But why does Garten cook the pasta's sauce base in the oven, rather than on the stove? According to Serious Eats, baking tomato sauce brings out the aromatic flavors in the dish by caramelizing it without burning the sauce.

Bake the vodka sauce

Ina Garten's Penne Alla Vodka recipe contains common ingredients you'd expect from the Italian dish. Still, her trick for baking the vodka sauce transforms your tastebuds. A delicious combination of sautéed yellow onion, garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and vodka, mixed with hand-crushed plum tomatoes, salt, and pepper, create the perfect sauce. Garten recommends tightly covering the pot of sautéed vodka sauce and baking it for an hour and a half at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the sauce bakes, boil penne pasta in salted water according to the package directions. Drain, and set aside. According to Taste of Home, you'll know when the pasta is al dente when it is tender enough to chew but still contains some firmness. They say to take a bite about two minutes before the package directions instruct to stop cooking. If the pasta is still too firm, continue cooking until it reaches your desired level of doneness.

Puree until smooth

Baking vodka sauce is Ina Garten's trick for transforming sautéed veggies, vodka, and crushed tomatoes from basic to savory — but it doesn't stop there. After removing the sauce from the oven, carefully pour it into a steel-blade food processor or blender. Puree the vodka sauce until smooth, then return it to the pot. Her recipe says to add fresh oregano, cream, salt, and pepper, then simmer covered for 10 minutes. Next, add the penne pasta to the vodka sauce, stir for a few additional minutes, and remove from the heat. Stir in half a cup of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and serve with fresh oregano and an extra sprinkling of Parmesan. 

According to Well Recipes, penne alla vodka tastes delicious when topped with chicken, broccoli, spinach, shrimp, pancetta, or bacon. Our Everyday Life recommends serving pasta with a side of garlic bread to complete the dish.