As regular readers will know, I’m the traditionalist when it comes to Italian food. By and large, I stick with the tried and true. But every so often, an innovative dish comes around that attracts me, usually because, even if it’s not traditional, the dish feels so ‘right’ that it might as well be. So it was when I stumbled upon this beauty on a popular Italian recipe site. I had never even heard of pairing pasta and wine before, but the idea intrigued me. And when I did try it, it was love at first bite.
Best of all, the recipe is incredibly quick and easy—one of those pasta sauces that are done while your pasta cooks. You start with a classic garlic and oil base, then add red wine and let it reduce. That is, quite literally, it. You can add olives and/or parsley for some extra flavor and color.
Serves 4-6 people
- 400g (14 oz) linguini or other long pasta
- 2-3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed and peeled
- Olive oil
- 500 ml (2 cups) of a full-bodied red wine (see Notes)
- Salt and pepper
- A handful of pitted black olives, perferably Gaeta or nicoise (optional)
- A few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Put the pasta on the boil, cook in well salted water until al dente.
While the water is coming to a boil, sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil in a large skillet. When the garlic cloves are just beginning to brown, remove them. Then add the red wine. Let the wine reduce until it is quite syrupy. Just before the wine is fully reduced, add the olives if using.
When the pasta is done, drain it (but not too thoroughly) and add it to the skillet with the wine reduction. Mix the pasta and wine reduction well, and let the pasta absorb the wine almost entirely. The pasta should remain quite moist, so it ‘slithers’ around.
Serve the pasta immediately, if you like with a sprinkling of parsley on top for color (although I actually like the darkness of the dish without it).
The original recipe called for spaghetti, which of course would do very well, but I rather like the slinky quality of linguini here. Any long pasta secca, in fact, is suitable. As for the wine, the original recipe called for primitivo, aka Zinfandel, but I used a Rioja Crianza I happened to have open. It was lovely. I would think that any full-bodied, not too acidic red, like the ubiquitous Cabernet, would work very well.
It seems to me that this dish would lend itself to some experimentation: capers instead of olives, for example, or a few anchovy filets for that umami taste. And you could probably go in a meaty direction with pancetta or crumble sausage.