it’s all about the sauce: alla vecchia bettola

I have a weird habit. Some might say that I have more than just one, but I’m only going to tell you about one weird habit today.

When I’m at the gym working out on the elliptical machine (my favorite) or the stationery bike (my go-to machine if the elliptical machines are full), I read food magazines. And watch food and cooking shows. I’ve tried reading other things at the gym or watching the music video channels, an old movie, or even CNN. But nothing makes the time fly by faster while I’m huffing and puffing on that machine like a good Barefoot Contessa show or the latest issue of Food & Wine. Recently, I even caught an old PBS episode of Jacques Pepin and Julia Child making eggs. I had a fantastic workout that day and I learned a lot about cooking eggs, too.

A couple of weeks ago, I made it to the gym while the Barefoot Contessa was on, and a pasta sauce recipe caught my eye. The show featured a recipe from Joe Realmuto, the executive chef of East Hampton New York’s Nick and Toni’s, and was for the restaurant’s well-loved creamy tomato and vodka sauce. I love almost anything that Ina Garten makes, and knew that for her to feature this sauce on her show, it must be damn good.

pasta sauce

The recipe called for vodka, but since I had no vodka on hand (crazy, right?) and a pantry overflowing with wine, I used a great Chianti instead.  A good rule of thumb when it comes to cooking with wine is to only use a wine that you’d be happy drinking as well. The Setriolo 2005 Chianti Classico was very flavorful, juicy and medium-bodied – great for serving with the finished dish.

setriolo chianti classico

While penne pasta was the pasta of choice for Joe Realmuto’s sauce, I used gnocchi. I would imagine that any pasta that holds a creamy sauce well would work great.

I used D.O.P. certified San Marzano tomatoes, and I just can’t recommend them enough. I tend to use the Cento brand, and I can find them at my local Publix or Fresh Market.

cento san marzano tomatoes

pasta sauce

pasta sauce

The sauce was fabulous – rich and creamy. From the the photo of the finished dish (not the best photo, but I was having an off night) you can see that I’m a real sauce person. I get carried away sometimes and drown my pasta in it. But what can I say? I just love sauce. And I loved this one.

gnocchi alla vecchia bettola

Nick and Toni's Alla Vecchia Bettola


1/4 cup olive oil
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 good red wine [I used a Chianti, but a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon would work.]
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano peeled plum tomatoes [DOP certified, such as Cento.]
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta (or other pasta of your choice)
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine 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. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the 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 cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return it to the pan.

Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons of 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 some fresh oregano on each plate.

(Just slightly adapted from Joe Realmuto's recipe featured on the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, this episode.

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33 Responses to “pam anderson’s cassoulet-style italian sausages and white beans”

  1. JenniferA — January 10, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    I love this recipe too and this book. I was never much of a sausage person but I recently joined a grass-fed meat CSA and now I usually receive at least a little sausage each month and this recipe is now my go-to.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 10th, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

      It’s great, isn’t it? I’m going to try it with different sausages next.

  2. JoAnn — January 10, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    Great blog…. I’m your newest follower.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 10th, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

      Thanks! How did you find me? I’m always curious about where people stumble in from. 🙂

  3. Kath — January 10, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    This recipe is right up my alley! Perfect for casual entertaining (which is the only way I entertain!). One of my local supermarkets has fabulous house-made spicy lamb sausages. I’m thinking they would be perfect in this cassoulet!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 10th, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

      Lamb sausages! What a great idea!

  4. kateiscooking — January 10, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    This sounds like a total winner. I love Kath’s idea of the lamb sausage too.

  5. Macaroni Mama — January 10, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

    Oh yes, your father and I went back for seconds; however, I suggest you put more sausage in it. And that dipping soup…DELICIOUS!

  6. Jennifer (Savor) — January 10, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    Love her book but have yet to make this – so comforting looking

  7. What a comforting dish and perfect for the chilly temps we are having in the SF Bay Area right now. Love the idea of beans and sausage together – both favorites! Happy New Year!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 11th, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

      Happy new year to you, too, Lisa!

  8. Jason Phelps — January 11, 2011 @ 9:43 am

    When I read Pam Anderson, I thought to myself. “Pam Anderson cooks? That ought to be interesting.” Then I found out it was a different Pam Anderson that can really cook. Way better!

    This dish screams winter for me. When we did our Ribera del Duero post in 2010 we made a Spanish version and loved it!


    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 11th, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

      Ha ha! Yes, this is definitely a different Pam Anderson. 🙂

  9. Carrie — January 11, 2011 @ 9:58 am

    This looks fabulous and right up my alley! So great for winter time, and I love one pot dishes like this.

  10. Winnie — January 11, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    I was looking at the video for the book on amazon last night and saw Pam making this recipe. Looks so wonderful and so easy…will be trying it soon for sure.

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  12. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 11, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    I have been eying up this recipe in Pam’s book for a while… After seeing yours, I just have to make it!!

  13. Paula - bell'alimento — January 11, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

    This is one my favorite recipes from their cookbook. It’s incredibly flavorful and SO EASY : )

  14. Velva — January 11, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

    Cheers to you husband and you for sharing a passion for the kitchen. No matter that your styles may be different.
    Your cassoulet is beautiful. It’s a delicious, hearty meal for cold weather.


  15. Nancy@acommunaltable — January 11, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    I love dishes like this – easy to put together, bursting with flavor and minimal dishes involved!!!

    Best part is you could really mix this one up!! Lovely photos MJ!!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 13th, 2011 @ 8:51 am

      Thanks so much, Nancy!

  16. Cooks_Books — January 11, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    I so need to try this — and I even have the cookbook! 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion and inspiration, as always.

  17. saltyseattle — January 13, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    you’re so damn humble when describing your clearly *beyond* culinary abilities. oh, and i could put those sausages in my mouth every day of the week!

  18. Jen — January 14, 2011 @ 7:50 am

    I am going to try this one for this weekend- may have some friends coming over and this looks perfect!

  19. Jen — January 15, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

    Made this tonight for friends. Got tons of compliments and it was so easy. Thanks for sharing

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 17th, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

      Jen – Thanks for that feedback!

  20. Kate @ Savour Fare — January 19, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    This is so going into the meal plan for next week. My kid loves both sausage and beans, so it’s perfect.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 20th, 2011 @ 8:24 am

      My kids loved it, Kate. I hope yours do too!

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  22. Sonia Quinones — November 7, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

    Oh yea! I just ran across your site/recipe when I came home tonight insanely hungry and wanting to make something with italian sausages, cherry tomatoes & white beans. Score! Am so excited. It’s already cooking and the apt. smells great. The hardest part is waiting for it to be done.

    Thank you!

  23. Ana Maria — February 20, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

    This seems to be a French version if the Spanish “Fabada” and “Caldo Gallego” from the Spanish northern regions of Asturias and Galicia respectively. I make it with dried beans that soak overnight and add several different sausages including chorizo. In my family we like to soak up the sauce with bread but many like to serve white rice on the side for that delicious sauce.

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