Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce


It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into February. This calls for whole wheat penne with vodka sauce. I don’t know—any excuse will do, right? It’s also Ina Friday and that’s the real reason I chose to make this recipe.

Ina Friday falls on the first Friday of the month when a group of bloggers come together to blog about one of Ina’s recipes and make the food from the original recipe. Another option we have is to create or modify one of her recipes after being inspired by it. I’m taking the second road and developing a healthier recipe based on one of Ina’s, that she got from Chef Joe Realmuto, of Nick and Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton. It’s called penne alla vecchia bettola, but I call it whole wheat penne with vodka sauce, a vegetarian meal. Find the original recipe in Ina’s book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.

Some of my friends have asked me to come up with dishes that taste like you’re cheating, but have less calories and fat. What did I do with this recipe to make it healthier? I cut out the cream, and reduced the Parmesan cheese by 75%, used fresh vegetables instead of canned, reduced the olive oil by 50 percent, and used whole grain pasta instead of white. You might be wondering it if a dish could still taste good after all the cuts—believe me it does. The freshly cooked vegetables add a lot of flavor, and the pine nuts I add to the recipe add good fats the body craves. The flavor of parmesan is important too, to make you feel like you’re indulging, so I mix a small amount of the cheese with bread crumbs for more volume. It’s delicious. Serve it along with a big green mixed salad.

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Don’t forget to check out what the Ina Garten food bloggers have come up with.

See the links after the recipe.

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 5 servings

About 1-1/2 cup

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce


    For the Pasta and the Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, dried
  • 1 tablespoon flour (white or whole wheat)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tomato, about ½ pound
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt
  • For the Topping:
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 13.25 ounce box whole wheat penne (I use Barilla)


  1. Heat the olive oil to an 6-quart pot and then add the onion and celery and sauté for until the onion is transparent. Next, add the garlic and stir for one minute.
  2. Add the ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and then add the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the vodka and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is reduced by half. Next, add the oregano, chopped peppers, chopped tomatos and the 2 cups of water. Cook until the peppers are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently.
  4. Blend the pepper/tomato mix. I like to use an immersion hand blender, but a regular blender works fine, too. Blend until the sauce is creamy.
  5. Cook the pasta following the manufacturers directions on the box, and then place it in a large serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.
  6. Mix the parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs and sprinkle this over the pasta along with the toasted pine nuts and the parsley.

Weight Watcher’s Points: 14 per serving

Penne Nutrition Facts

Be sure to check out what the other Ina Friday bloggers have come up:

Alyce @ More Time at the Table, Anna @ Cheese with Noodles, Ansh @  Spice Roots , Barbara @ Moveable Feasts,   Bhavna @ Just a Girl From AAmchi Mumbai, Chaya @  Bizzy Bakes, Linda,  @ Tumbleweed Contessa, Mary @ The     Egg Farm, Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home, Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits, Patti @ Comfy Cuisine, Peggy@ Pantry Revisited, Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman, Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen


Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce 2

This recipe is also posted at: Whimsy WednesdaysFull Plate Thursday, Showcase Your Talent ThursdayWeek-end Re-treatFoodtastic Friday, and Foodie Friday