In Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, the head notes describe this dish as crowd pleaser. And as a celebration of Zinfandel. Spaghetti always seems to come to the table adorned with tomatoes. Here’s a way, by cooking in Zinfandel, to achieve a far more royal red color. A simple marriage of pasta and redness blessed by wine overtones.
Rapini or broccoli rabe usually seems bitter and without charm. Here, the technique lets you enjoy this lovely vegetable treat with absolutely no puckering of your mouth. Merged with the pasta, your brain is likely to be a bit confused. “This looks good, but I can’t put it into a category. What is it?” It’s Bottega.
Bottega is a book inspired by the flavors of California wine country married with the heritage of Italian food and wine. Beyond this surprising pasta, the book is stuffed with new visions of flavor and delight including:
- Green Eggs and Ham where cheese, prosciutto and asparagus are elegantly presented
- Butternut Squash and Fontina Risotto with Squab Ragu, a wonderfully complicated assembly of meat and vegetables
- Crispy Pork Shanks with Red wine Vinegar Agrodolce and Wine-Cooked Apples, a dish that seems to beautiful to eat
- White Chocolate-Lavender Panna Cotta with Madeira-Rhubarb Pappardelle, a dish too complicated to describe, but you are probably already tempted!
This beautiful book, oversized and filled with excellent photographs, is one for you to consider. Start with this different pasta, then do your own explorations.
Zinfandel Spaghettini with Spicy Rapini
Yield: 8 as a first course
- 1 ½ pounds rapini [broccoli rabe]
- 1 pound spaghettini or spaghetti
- 1 750-ml bottle dry red wine, preferable Zinfandel
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons slice garlic [about 4 cloves]
- 1 teaspoon Calabrian chile paste or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup grate Pecorino-Romano cheese
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the rapini for about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer transfer the rapini to a baking sheet and spread out to cool. In the same boiling water, cook the spaghettini, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes if fresh, 3 to 5 minutes if dried. [Cook spaghetti for 2 minutes if fresh, 6 to 8 minutes if dried.] You’ll do the second half of the cooking in the Zinfandel. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and set it aside. Return the empty pasta pot to the stove.
Add the wine and sugar to the pasta pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook to reduce by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the pasta to the pot and shake the pot to prevent the pasta from sticking. Gently stir with tongs until coated and boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente [about 3 minute for spaghettini and 4 or 5 minute for spaghetti; tasting tells you when your pasta is ready better than the clock can].
While the pasta cooks in the wine, heat a large deep sauté pan or skillet over high heat. Add the oil, reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the garlic until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add the chile paste, blanched rapini, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally , for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, or more if desired. Add the rapini mixture to the pasta, toss gently, and transfer to individual pasta bowls or one big platter. Sprinkle with the pecorino.
Source: Michael Chiarello’s Bottega
The Geometry of Pasta is book you can’t miss. That title by itself seems unusual. Since Brian is both a foodie and a mathematician, I just had to this book up for him. The book’s physical design is exceptional: clean Deco-style fonts in stark black ink on linen white paper. Each page has a film noir quality. And the recipes are excellent, either Italian classics or new variations carefully executed by an exceptional chef.
Geometry has two authors: Caz Hildebrand who specializes in cookbook design for others and Jacob Kenedy, an award winning London restaurateur.
The idea behind this book is simple: what are the different kinds of Italian pasta, how are they made, and how can they be used. Geometry begins with a discussion of the regional differences, reflecting the relative wealth and availability of ingredients in different parts of Italy.
There are solid, yet easy instructions for making pasta and tomato sauces. And the book is wise in reminding us that pasta from two Italian villages a just a few miles apart can be two completely different experiences. For food aficionados and historians, Geometry is a wonderful resource.
After that instruction, you have 270 encyclopedic pages of descriptions, recipes and diagrams. Starting with Angolotti and ending with Ziti, there are mini chapters devoted to each pasta type. How to make them, what goes with them, and some ideal recipes. Caz includes very stylish graphic renditions of each pasta type. It makes you want to contact her for new kitchen wallpaper.
We wanted a quick, simple and yet striking pasta dish for tonight. We found just the recipe and smiled through second helpings. It’s Tagliolini Con Granchio or Tagliolini with Crab. Oh, tagliolini is very thinly cut tagliatelli. You can make your own using the recipes in Geometry or, truthfully, do what we did and simply use tagliatelli.
If you follow a tradition of fish on Christmas Eve, then here’s a fish dish that can serve as a lovely first or main course. If you are having a holiday party, this dish with a crisp salad and brisk white wine will make your guests think you are a kitchen whiz. And, if you prepare this dish, you will be.
Tagliolini con Granchio
Yield: 4 large or 6 smallish serving
- 1/3 pound dried tagliolini or ½ pound fresh
- 2 mildish fresh red chilies, seeded and finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 ½ ounces born crab meat, carefully picked over
- ½ pound white crab meat, carefully picked over
- Grated zest of one lemon
The sauce is quick to make, so you can start at the same time as the past hit s the water.
Put the chilies, garlic, and oil into a cold pan, and heat over medium flame until it sizzles. Add the brown crab meat alone with about 6 tablespoons of the past water, and break up with a wooden spoon to make a sauce. Add the white crab meat and lemon zest to warm through now, stirring gently so as to keep intact any lumps of crab meat. Drain the past when al dente, add to the sauce, and stir together to mix, then remove from the heat and serve.
Three tablespoons of chopped parsley won’t go amiss, but aren’t necessary. A tablespoon of shredded mint tastes nice, in an unauthentic way.
Source: The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy