This pasta dish with sweet white wine, balsamic vinegar, and veggies is incredible. Here’s how it came about. While casting about online for a copycat recipe for Noodles and Company’s Penne Rosa (you can see my version here), I came across the ingredient list for their Pasta Fresca dish. I’d never actually eaten it before, but I found the ingredients inspiring and created this little number a few nights later. About a month after that, I had the chance to order the ‘real’ Pasta Fresca at Noodles and Company, and discovered there was pretty much no likeness between their dish and mine. Similar ingredients, but completely different flavor profiles. Now I would have my version over theirs any day, but all I can say it make it and judge for yourselves–it’s simple and fresh and you will just love it. Here’s how to make it:
1/2 lb angel hair pasta
2 TBS olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
6 roma tomatoes
1 red onion
salt to taste
ground black pepper
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns (heaping)
1/2 c sweet white wine (moscato)
1/3 c heavy whipping cream
5 oz baby spinach
handful basil leaves
Shaved Parmesan, to serve
First, chop all the ingredients: the onion . . .
. . . the tomatoes . . .
. . . and the garlic. Though I do like to thinly slice my garlic for this instead of mincing it.
You can also roughly chop the basil at this point, though that won’t go in until the end. Save a couple leaves to do some chiffonade. It will make everything prettier when you serve it.
While we’re at it prepping ingredients, let’s measure out those black peppercorns and give them a bashing with the old mortar and pestle. If you look closely, peppercorns are wrinkly and hilarious. Sometimes I like to eat one whole. It lights my mouth on fire, and also fills it with an almost lemony tang. If I were in the wilderness with no toothbrush, I would grab a peppercorn from a nearby peppercorn tree. It really makes your mouth, sinuses, and entire being feel cleaned out. Live on the wild side and crunch a peppercorn!
Hooray! Pulverized peppercorns. There’s nothing as pungent, spicy, and wonderful.
Except for Thai red chilis. Those suckers are just fantastic. Though you won’t find me eating one of those whole! No way.
Heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook for 4 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and cook 5 minutes. The liquid should be gone at the end, completely absorbed by the onions. You could probably stop here and just eat some delicious balsamic onions. Though since the heavy cream hasn’t yet been involved, stopping here could also be the biggest mistake of your week. Or your life? Hard to say.
Add salt and pepper too, while you’re at it.
Add the chopped tomatoes. Turn up heat to medium high and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the sweet white wine. It’s very important that you use a sweet wine such as moscatel (I’ve seen this labeled “muscat” or “moscato” as well), because a dry white wine would give this sauce a radically different flavor. Take a swig while you’re at it–no one’s looking! They say it’s good for you, too. Seriously! I read it in Martha Stewart Living! Or was that red wine?
Cook for 15 minutes on medium high–it should be at a rapid simmer the whole time. The liquid should mostly reduce by the time you’re done.
Add the cream and cracked black peppercorns.
Cook on medium 3 minutes. Did someone just say “paradise”? Or did I inadvertently speak aloud?
Turn down heat to low and add spinach and basil. Yes, it looks like an invasion of the pot has taken place, but the heat will quickly cut these green intruders down to size.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, until just wilted.
I forgot to add the peppercorns with the cream, so I added them now instead.
Take your set-aside basil leaves and chiffonade them. Here’s how: roll up a leaf nice and tight . . .
. . . and slice it crosswise!
Couldn’t be easier, especially if you’re not trying to hold the knife and the leaf with one hand because your other hand is on your camera’s shutter release. Look at this precious little pile of curly-wurlies.
Will you forgive me if I promise never to say “curly wurlies” again?
Serve the sauce with the pasta, topped with basil chiffonade and parmesan.
Would you just look at this beauty?
Let’s take a generous bite . . .
Hey! Who ate my . . . ?! What the . . . !? Oh . . . *patting stomach* . . . it might have been me. Well, thankfully there’s more where that came from. Time for seconds:
And I’m pleased to say, second verse same as the first: AMAZING!
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