Monkeys and Japanese horror movies: two great tastes that...um...
Actually, you know what tastes really good together? Red wine and pasta.
Back in April, over on Serious Eats, Gina DePalma posted a recipe for Spaghetti All’Ubriaco. It's spaghetti, cooked in equal amounts of red wine and water, finished in the pan with garlic, red pepper flakes and even more red wine. I was intrigued by the idea and, when I was in Florence later that April, I mentioned to the tour guide who was leading our group that I'd be interested in trying the dish...only to be informed by him that no such dish possibly existed in Italian culture with the kind of tone that suggested that I was a stupid American for even bringing it up.
It wasn't the first disagreement about food that we'd had in the course of the trip. Earlier, we'd had a disagreement over whether or not calamari and seppia were the same thing which had resulted in a detour from the given tour into a fish market in Padua. Despite seeing the beasts side by side, he stubbornly continued to assert they were the same creature. I left the fish market feeling stabby and unable to numb my irritation with drink because I was chaperoning children. Sometimes, even a free trip has its downsides.
Oddly enough, he did bring us by the Piazza Santa Croce, where Gina DePalma found the osteria at which she had this dish. However, he did make up for the loss of that meal by taking us to a non-tourist frequented restaurant where I had my first taste of fresh young fava beans and Pecorino Toscano together...for which I curse him because they were fabulous and I can't find them in the markets around here - not even the really good Italian market two blocks from my home. Bastard.
When I got home from from Italy, I was (and am still slightly) obsessed with all things Italian cuisine. It didn't hurt that a wine shop that only carries Italian wine had just opened a half mile from where I live. I set out to try the All’Ubriaco pasta treatment almost immediately.
You can use pretty much any pasta. I've made this with spaghettini, bucatini and, most recently, gemelli. We found ourselves in the unusual position of having leftover red wine after a visit with the Manions, so we used the remaining Merlot to make the dish (and I do think it might be my favorite so far!). There were two and a half cups of wine left so, for 2 cups of short pasta, I used 2 cups of wine and 2 cups of water (and some salt...pasta cooking liquid needs salt!). Otherwise I just followed the procedure outlined in the recipe. I finished the dish with a sprinkling of Pecorino Crotonese, which the cheese guy at my Italian market tells me is similar to Pecorino Toscano but more aged. Use whatever pasta, wine and cheese you like though.
At some point, I hope to go back to Italy and see the country in a more leisurely fashion than the 7 cities in 8 days itinerary of the school trip allowed. The trick will be convincing Mr. Scoop of the boozeworthiness of the trip. I'm hoping it won't be a hard sell, after all Italy is a magical place where you can get your morning espresso with a side of grappa and no one judges you.