A Christmas favorite from The Four Seasons of Pasta

How about festive, bright red pasta in a dazzling red sauce for a jolly Christmas table? And if it’s easy on the cook as well, what could be better?

Pasta in a spicy red-wine sauce has been a hit in Sara’s restaurants ever since she introduced it many years ago at 50 Carmine in New York. Now it’s a staple at Porsena, but recently upgraded and made even more vivid by the presence of Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s delightful Stuzzicarelli al Montepulciano d’Abruzzo,

Rustichella d'Abruzzo's red-wine pasta

Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s red-wine pasta

egg fettucine made with the sumptuous red wine of the Abruzzo, montepulciano (not to be confused with the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany), which stains the pasta a mottled pink color.

If the pasta is not available in your local market, you can find it at markethallfoods.com; you could also make it with regular egg fettucine or with angel-hair, fedelini, or any other kind of long, thin pasta shape, but it will not acquire the deep and brilliant ruby hue of the pasta in the photo. Once you’ve got the pasta, all you need is a bottle of a fairly robust wine. A California cabernet will do just fine, though a pinot noir will be better, and best of all is a true montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Here’s the recipe and you’ll see that, once you’ve got the ingredients, it’s the kind of thing you can toss together after an evening session of tree decorating when everyone needs something as uplifting as those lights glittering amid the fragrant branches. We’ve been presenting this recently at cooking classes and demos and it turns out to be a big favorite.

Note that the quantity of wine is approximate—it gets added bit by bit and can be more or less depending on many variables, including the weather and relative humidity.

Serves 4 to 6.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, lightly smashed with the flat blade of a knife
  • 1 small dried red chili pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups full-bodied red wine
  • About 1 pound (500 grams) pasta
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated zest of half a lemon, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf parsley

In a large wide sauté pan—wide enough to hold the pasta without breaking it—combine the olive oil and garlic and set over medium-low heat. Cook gently, turning the garlic, until it is starting to brown a little, then add the chili pepper—as much or as little as you wish. (If you want the flavor of the chili but not much heat, open the pod up and shake out the seeds before adding; that will reduce the over-all heat by quite a bit.)

As soon as the chili starts to sizzle, add one cup of the wine, raise the heat to medium, and bring the wine to a boil.

Once the wine begins to boil, add all the pasta and shake the pan gently over medium heat until the pasta starts to soften. When the pasta strandsred wine pasta are soft enough to move, start stirring them and continue stirring until the wine has been almost completely absorbed. Add more wine in half cup increments, letting each addition be absorbed before adding another. When the pasta is al dente, add the butter along with salt and pepper to taste, and shake or stir until butter and seasoning have been fully absorbed.

Transfer the pasta to a heated serving bowl, or to individual pasta bowls, garnishing with the lemon zest and parsley. Serve immediately.


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