Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dipping a Toe in the Red Wine Spaghetti Craze

What is it about red wine spaghetti recipes these days?  I'm seeing them everywhere. 

The first recipe I think of when I think of red wine spaghetti is not a pleasant memory.  I keep thinking of that joke of an Iron Chef America battle between Cordon Bleu-graduate-and-former high-end caterer-turned-TV-host, Giada DeLaurentis and former-food-retail-clerk-turned-TV-Host Rachael Ray.  The two women, Ray especially, did little more than act as assistants to two high-end chefs, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali.  In fact, Ray hardly cooked anything at all herself except for the dish where she cooked spaghetti in red wine.  I will admit it didn't look like the worst thing she has ever cooked (it wasn't a 20-ingredient burger after all), but knowing my rather visceral dislike of Rachael Ray, I can't say I was scrambling to find a copy of the recipe.  I was too angry that Rachael Ray had won a battle that had clearly been fought by Mario Batali.*   I never thought to cook red wine spaghetti myself.

So one day in the recent past I was browsing my good blog buddy Sue's blog, which I never miss.  She had a post about Giada DeLaurentis cooking a red wine spaghetti dish.  I found a certain irony in that since a red wine spaghetti dish was instrumental in her embarassing defeat in ICA.  I had to admit, I was intrigued.  Why do we flavor the liquid we cook our pasta in with only salt?  What about the time I used the cooking liquid from boiling vegetables in my pasta dish?  What about noodle soup? We cook risotto in wine and stock.  Couldn't one see cooking pasta in red wine as simply a way to eliminate the bother of making a sauce? 

Apparently many people agree with this.  Since the day I saw that post it seems the internet has exploded with red wine spaghetti recipes.  I kept running into blog posts about them.  In fact, while looking for some ideas for lemon cake recipes for my last post, I found a recipe for red wine spaghetti on the same blog where I found a lemon cake recipe.  (I wish I had bookmarked that blog since it was awesome and I forgot the name of it and I would like to give the blogger some credit.)  I decided it was time to try it.  I had an unused bottle of red wine in the pantry that was still left over from my mother's birthday party over a month ago.  I could use it all at once.

I had to come up with some ways to make my pasta more interesting and different from all of the other recipes on the internet.  To make it into a more healthful and well-rounded meal, I added some fresh arugula and chopped tomatoes to the final dish.  I also added salt, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves to the wine. 

I made turkey meatballs to provide some protein for the meal.  These were spiced with cinnamon, onion, garlic, and smoked paprika. 

I know this must sound absolutely blasphemous, but I don't want to eat farmer's market arugula anymore.  It's just too bitter.  I like my arugula from the supermarket - mild and mellow.  Had I used a milder arugula, I would have liked this dish better.  While the flavors were rather strong, I do think this was a decent dish and fun to play with.

Note I used brown rice pasta and almond flour instead of bread crumbs in the meatballs.  If you aren't cooking for anyone with possible gluten intolerance, feel free to switch up the ingredients. 

I also bake my meatballs all the way through.  I just find it quicker and easier that way.  I probably should have finished them off in the wine, but I knew I would have to take them out before add the spaghetti (they would break apart once I started stirring the spaghetti in) and I didn't want to bother.

Red Wine Pasta Short (dis)Order Cook Style with Spiced Meatballs


  • 1/2 cup almond flour (or bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package ground turkey (or beef if you prefer)
  • Grated pecorino for serving
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together almond flour, garlic, onion, cinnamon, paprika and salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add egg and turkey and carefully mix by hand.  Roll into small balls.  Place on cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes. 


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 bottle strong red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small bunch arugula, coasrsely chopped
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of salt.  Add the pasta to the water and cook four minutes.

Bring the wine, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes to a boil in another pot.  Once the spaghetti has cooked in the water, drain it and add it to the boiling wine.  Cook 4 minutes more or until properly al dente. 

Toss the arugula and tomatoes into the pot with the spaghetti.  Stir well until the vegetables begin to wilt.

Serve topped with meatballs and pecorino.

*If you are a Rachael Ray fan, or Giada DeLaurentis hater, please spare me the diatribes about Giada's smile, head size, breast size, and Italian accent. I also don't want to hear your homages to Rachael Ray (who totally spells Rachel wrong) and how "real" she is.   Totally irrelevant to this post and will be deleted.


bellini said...

I must say I have not jumped on the red wine pasta bandwagon blindly. I would go so far as to say this is the first I have heard of it. But now it is inevitable that I give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the love for Racheal Ray, she is not a good cook and really loads up on ingredients she only prefers, she is to me obnoxious, I so love your column and you get it right on about cooks, either they have it or they don't and for normal people working people no one will get 20 ingredients out to make a burger, really, keep up the great and informative blog, I love the way you cook, ciao!