Peppery Absorption-Cooked Red-Wine Capellini


1 pound capellini or angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Half alarge white onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
1 ½ pounds zucchini, diced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 1/4 cups red wine (I use an inexpensive Spanish Tempranillo), plus additional as needed
1 1/4 cups water, plus additional as needed
Minced fresh flatleaf parsley leaves for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Break the capellini into approximately 3-inch lengths. Spread the pasta on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven, and toast, tossing occasionally with tongs, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot (at least 5 1/2 quarts) with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook, allowing them only to soften and grow aromatic but not brown, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini and another pinch of salt. Sauté until the zucchini is well browned, about 5 more minutes.
3. Place the noodles on top of the zucchini mixture. Layer the asparagus and 1 cup of the cherry tomatoes on top of that and sprinkle in the smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, and rosemary. Pour the red wine and ¼ cup of water over the top. Toss as best you can with tongs; it will be hard at first because the noodles are stiff. Return the heat to medium and cover the pot.
4. Every 3 minutes, remove the lid and toss the pasta. The total cooking time will be 8 to 12 minutes. Toward the end, taste a noodle each time you remove the lid to see if it is done. If not, and there isn’t any moisture left on the bottom of the pot, add a bit more wine or water, about 1/3 cup.
5. When the noodles are done to your liking, taste and make any final adjustments to the seasoning. Transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, the parsley, and another grind of black pepper. Serve immediately.


Tastefully Julie's picture

I'm totally drooling over this! What an interesting way to make pasta.

Dennisk's picture

Please include recommendations for non-alcohol cooking. Would this work with veggie broth?

Michael Natkin's picture

It would definitely work in the sense that the noodles would get cooked, but it would be a very different dish so you might need to change the other flavorings to make sure the flavors were in balance. Here's another, somewhat similar recipe, that uses much less wine so you could safely replace it without a big problem:

carol whitehouse's picture

Can I use burgundy instead of red wine?


For this recipe, I toast the capellini in the oven first. This is characteristic of how noodles are handled in Spain and Mexico (where the pasta is called fideos) and the Middle East. I enjoy the additional browned flavors. You can do this while prepping and sautéing your vegetables.

Because the tomatoes and zucchini cook along with the noodles, I call for less initial liquid than you will see in some absorption-cooked pasta recipes. Instead, you’ll check along the way and add more as needed. Be sure to reserve some of the tomatoes for garnish. I love to include an ingredient in both cooked and raw forms in the same dish to experience its full range of flavors.

This dish is quite assertive, with substantial quantities of red wine, black pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic. It isn’t one I would necessarily recommend serving to young children or those who prefer milder tastes.

This recipe is from my book Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes.


4 servings


Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:27pm


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