One-Pot Red Wine Pasta

March 21st 2016

Lemme tell ya a lil story....its 2006, it's the Nicholas food show at the South Towne (why the "e" at the end?) expo center in Salt Lake City, UT. Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty" is the hit of the moment, blaring from the 90's Ford Taurus I caught a ride in with my fellow culinary students (we were totally the "Bad News Bears" of the event for sure) dressed to the nines in our Happy Chef gear, prepared or not we were there to compete. We were a mixed grill of characters some 17 year old's from Davis high, a real old dude, (never asked his age, didn't want to be rude) from the local grocers deli team, and me at 25, overly confident with a full arsenal of ideas via hours watched of Food network, totally unprepared for what I was in for. There were three competitions pasta,mystery box, and salad the following day....I was in my typical fashion doing all three, we had to compete to get to the competition and I had slayed my teenage and elderly comrades...and even the new guy, a hot shot Southern dude in his 40's that was a fry cook at Olive Garden. I was confident, me, 17 year old Lisa a pastry prodigy, and old guy were doing the pasta challenge. I went the Michael Chiarello route, red wine pasta, I added pancetta, greens, garlic, parm...I had practiced using dried spaghetti and I thought it was exceptional....thinking back was lacking but the use of wine was pretty edgy for the culinary student from Davis county. The rub? The pasta we had to use was filled, frozen, pasta. Yep...not how I practiced...but hell nuttin gonna break my stride. I went with the ricotta and porcini giant ravioli. I made the dish, it was light pinkish, not sultry, Napa Valley, purple ....and oozing what I think was cheese, I didn't crisp my pancetta enough so it was flappy like a bad cold cut, the garlic was sharp,harsh and the cheese was cheap and plastic-like. The tatted up, dick swinging, chef from Squatter's was the judge. Clad in the latest design of the "Happy Chef" neon green chef's coat, his critique was painful, and I was crushed, the coolest "chef" I had ever met in real life just told me I sucked, thinking about it now is Squatter's ain't exactly Le Bernardin! Lisa did well as I recall, 3rd place, old guy did a baked pasta in a crust that didn't even get cooked in time. The mystery box was just as bad if not worse...we were up against established restaurants and our stuff resembled the dinner party in Beetlejuice as told to me by the two dudes from Stoneground that were competing against us. My partner and I, placed dead last...I don't remember his name but I never seen anyone abuse a flank steak like that. After receiving a verbal lashing about serving under cooked shrimp, I sobbed, publicly, I still had to go the next day for the salad challenge, and my parents were coming, so there was no way out of it...I hit the free wine booth and drowned my sorrows until they told me I was abusing the sample policy and while I tried to protest,I spilled a glass on my chef's coat. Next day came and I was down, I saw my folks arrive, so I went along with it and did the competition. Grilled romaine Caesar salad, with lime and chipotle, oddly, maybe because the pressure to win was off, I won first place! The man that told me how awful my dishes were yesterday was now naming me victor! I won a egg pan and knife that I still use on the regular. To enjoy winning you gotta learn how to lose....or you have to suffer to some degree to realize what pleasure really is. I lose everyday....but occasionally I win....and the trick is that you need it all to make it through this challenging human experience. Never quit, and for me to get better I have to suck it hard some days, maybe publicly humiliated occasionally, but i'm better for it.
Red wine pasta revitalization...mainly I simplified it.
You will need:
1/2 lb dried pasta
1/2 bottle red wine
1/2 Cup water
1 Cup fresh spinach, chopped.
3 cloves garlic
1 T. Olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 Cup grated pecorino or parmesan or a combination of both
salt and pepper to taste.
I do this in a one pot method so it would be crazy easy. In a medium sauce pot add olive oil over medium heat, add garlic and cook until golden and fragrant about 4 minutes, add wine and water with a pinch of salt, add pasta turn to high heat, when boiling, turn to medium low, top with a lid and let cook 6-8 minutes. Remove lid and turn heat up to medium, add spinach, wilt, add butter a bit more salt and pepper to taste and top with cheese. This serves 3-4 as main or 6-8 as a side dish. Using good wine is important as the pasta will absorb the flavor.