Oh this is the night, it’s a beautiful night… And we call it bella notte…
Ok, ok… Different pasta, same idea. A sweet and flavorful marinara sauce flavored silky cream and a dash of cheese, all over a bed of al dente pasta.
Oh, and did I mention that this also has pancetta, which is basically Italian bacon?
I mean, how can you not want to dive into this as soon as it hits the table?
This was actually the meal I enjoyed during my first visit to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano and the memories of how beautiful this sauce tasted made me anxious to bring this recipe home.
I’m hard to please when it comes to marinara sauce.
Not to brag, but I’m kind of a connoisseur of tomato sauces. In fact, I’m so crazy about my tomato sauces that people love to tease me on social media about how I RunDisney, then I hop the bus to either Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios to grab a huge, heaping plate of spaghetti. I even crave tomato sauce and pasta for at least a week or two after a half marathon.
We won’t even talk about the tomato garden I have right now… 53 different tomato plants, at least 50 pounds of frozen tomatoes, and I don’t even know how many mason jars of tomato sauce.
Yeah, I’m a big fan of tomato sauces.
This sauce doesn’t disappoint.
All at once it’s hearty and flavorful, but creamy and velvety and a bit cheesy, with a hint of spice and a splash of sweetness. The bacon adds a crunchy, salty element that is just irresistible. And I love how easy it is to throw together!
So this really is a belle notte!
- Marinara Sauce -
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- ½ tablespoon oregano, dried
- ½ tablespoon marjoram, dried
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 8 oz crushed tomatoes
- 8 oz diced tomato
- Vodka Cream Sauce -
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup sweet onion, Diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 pound pancetta or bacon, chopped small
- 2 oz. vodka
- 4 oz. marinara sauce
- 2 oz. heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- 1½ cup penne pasta, cooked al dente
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Italian parsley, optional
- To make marinara sauce:
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add onions and garlic. Stir until fragrent and onions are starting to turn golden brown. Add basil and dried herbs. Toss in salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Cook over low heat for 5 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning. If desired, pour into a crockpot and keep warm on low instead of leaving it in saucepan to cook.
- To make vodka cream sauce:
- Heat olive oil in a pan, add onion, garlic, and panchetta/bacon. Sautee until golden brown and fragrant. Deglaze the pan with vodka and allow it to reduce slightly. Add the marinara and stir in cream slowly along with cheese. Bring to just under a boil and warmed through. Toss in pasta.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with Italian parsley, if desired.
- Serves 2-4