Drunken Pasta

It's the New Year and, like many of us, I've taken a little break from the wine (like, a week ... ). Over the holidays I managed to convince myself that bailey's in my coffee, rum in my eggnog and wine just about anytime was totally acceptable (my skinny jeans say otherwise!).  Funny enough, it's not the actual alcohol I miss, but rather the ritual of pouring a glass and sipping while I cook that I miss the most.  My soda stream fizzy water doesn't quite cut it (although a bit better when I put it in a wine glass as opposed to drinking right out of the bottle).

Over the holidays, we went into the deep, dark corners of the wine cellar (read: crawl space off the furnace room with the used cans of paint) and pulled out all of the wine that had been "stored" there for a special occasion.  Turns out, much of what was there wasn't a) stored properly and b) worth storing.  In all, I ended up with 4 or 5 bottles of wine that I've placed beside the stove purely for cooking with. (As an aside: you've likely heard only cook with wines you'd drink and I used to follow this, until I took a week long course at Le Cordon Bleu and we got our wine for whatever dish we were cooking that day out of a giant box, with a spigot).

With 13 people in the house over the break, it was often hard to find time to myself and I found myself spending time in the grocery store parking lot where the wifi reaches and checking my facebook just for the little alone time it afforded me.  It was during one of these "breaks" that I found a recipe video that actually looked good to me (call me a snob, but most of those videos everyone saves that seem to use a cake mix, a bottle of ketchup and a pack of marshmallows do not appeal to me!).  This recipe was from Food and Wine magazine, and made by Katie Quinn (there are a ton of sites for her ... she's pretty spot on and fun to watch) and it called for cooking pasta in red wine.  I don't eat a lot of pasta anymore (see skinny jeans above!), but when I do, I need it to be salty and flavourful and really amazingly delicious.  I'm a huge believer in umami ... that taste that is sweet and salty and deep all in one bite.  It means that at the end of a meal, I'm satisfied and not looking to round out the flavours in my mouth with something else (dessert!).  I also, though, need to make sure that what I make appeals to the rest of my household. While I am very good at NOT being a short order cook and my kids have rather adventurous palates, it is nice to make something that everyone gives a thumbs up to, and this recipe did just that! Satisfied the kids and adults here, as well as gave me a nice new recipe that would make a great starter to a fancy dinner party, or a quick bite on a hockey/swim/piano/basketball night.

The recipe as written on the Food & Wine website ( http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/red-wine-spaghetti-with-walnuts-and-parsley) is a good starting point, but I sort of felt that it could be adapted to meet my tastes a little better, as well as use what I had on hand.

I started by gathering the ingredients:

Some good quality spaghetti (I really like Barilla), some garlic, shallots, basil, red wine, olives capers and "Taste 5" paste (taste 5 is the fifth taste after salty, sweet, sour, bitter and then "umami"). I get this paste at my local Independent Grocer and it's sold under the President's Choice Black Label line, but you could just as easily use anchovy paste. Specialty grocers sell umami paste as well. *That little jar with the white lid is pimentos that I found in the back of the cupboard. I couldn't get the lid off, didn't use them, threw them away!

I brought 4 cups of wine and 1 cup of water to the boil in a not so deep pot (this is my le crueset risotto pot, in which I never make risotto!).  For this recipe, you don't want gallons of water to dilute the wine, but one big enough to hold your pasta. This one is wide and only about 6 inches deep.  Once boiling, add the pasta (I did find that I added a bit more water once the pasta was in, as evaporation was a bit of an issue)

This pot needed more liquid to cover those crazy looking red wine noodles!

This pot needed more liquid to cover those crazy looking red wine noodles!

While pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and add 4 or 5 cloves of garlic sliced thinly, and 1 chopped shallot (this is not set in stone ... original recipe didn't call for shallots, but I like the flavour they add). Once the garlic and shallots have softened up (don't burn them,  medium/medium high heat is fine, keep stirring and remove from heat if getting too cooked), add a good squirt of Umami paste (or anchovy paste, or even a tablespoon or 2 of tomato paste) and let it cook with the oil and garlic and shallots.

When the pasta is al dente, reserve a good 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and then drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, along with the cooking water, 1/4 cup of wine, some capers, some olives and some chopped basil.  Toss it all around until the liquid is more or less absorbed. *If you don't have a frying pan big enough to hold the pasta, you could pour it all back into the pasta cooking pot and make sure you really scrape out the frying pan with a spatula to get all of the good flavour into the pasta.  

And you're done! I served up into individual dishes, topped it with some Parmesan cheese (hot pepper flakes would be nice as well ... original recipe adds them with the garlic, but the kids balk at spicy so I tend to add my spice at the end to my own food).  Quick, bursting with umami, and a great way to get a pasta and wine fix all at once!  

Drunken Pasta (serves about 4)

1 pound spaghetti noodles

1 liter plus about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of red wine (if you have less than this, reserve the 1/4 - 1/2 cup first, then make up the rest of your cooking liquid with water. I think it would be just fine with a more watered down cooking liquid)

Olive oil 

5 -6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1-2 tablespoons Umami Paste (or anchovy paste, or tomato paste ... balsamic vinegar might work? or just omit if you've got none of this!)

2 - 4 tablespoons capers (I actually used a whole small jar ... was a bit much though)

Black olives (again, optional)

1/4 cup chopped Basil, or parsley

Parmesan cheese for serving


Bring about 4 cups of wine and 1 cup of water to the boil in a large, but not overly deep pot (you can play with the water/wine ratio depending on what you have).

Once boiling, add about 1T salt and pasta. Stir often to keep it moving, add more liquid if needed. Cook until al dente according to package directions

While pasta is cooking, heat a few slugs of olive oil in a pan and add garlic and shallots.  Cook over medium - medium high heat until softened, being sure not to burn or over brown them.  Add Umami paste if using and stir around to coat the garlic/shallot mixture.

Drain pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking water, and add pasta to the frying pan, along with cooking water and reserved wine.  Add in capers and olives and toss to coat and cook over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Finish off with another glug of olive oil and toss again.  Top with chopped basil, grated parmesan, nuts (if using), hot pepper flakes (if using) and serve. Enjoy!