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Apr 15, 2014
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WINE WITH…Fettuccine with Piscachios

When it comes to whipping up a quick, tasty and affordable supper in the middle of a busy workweek, don’t we all seek inspiration from time to time? Stir-fries, chicken pies, ham-on-ryes--we need a break!

Pasta is an obvious (and one of our favorite) go-to last minute weeknight dinners, but much as we love marinara, pesto, aglio e olio, Alfredo and all the other classics, every now and then we yearn for something a little different. With that in mind we decided to reinterpret a pasta dish we’d recently enjoyed at Hersh’s (our local pizza and pasta provider), which featured fettuccine with pistachios in the starring role. Our version lacked the delicate lusciousness of Hersh’s homemade fettuccine; but even though we relied on dried supermarket pasta, the results were simply delicious, and it was definitely not the same-old-same-old.

Fettuccine With Pistachios

Serves two.

We followed Hersh’s lead by using fettuccine, but next time, just for fun, we might try a smaller pasta shape to echo the size of the pistachios (orecchiette, fusilli, farfalle (bow ties), and cavatelli are possibilities.

Use half rather than a whole chili pepper if you want a milder taste.

You could substitute Parmigiano Reggiano for the Pecorino cheese but the taste will be quite different. The sheep’s milk cheese is what gives this pasta dish its richly distinctive, almost gamy flavor.

1 large red onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 Fresno or Serrano chili pepper (seeded and finely minced)
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely minced or grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup shredded Pecorino Romano, plus more to pass at the table
½ pound fettuccine

Peel the onion and cut it in half lengthwise; then cut the halves in eighths. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. When they begin to soften, add the pepper and garlic and continue cooking over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are very soft but not browned. (May be made ahead to this point.)

To serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions until tender. Meanwhile, add the pistachios, lemon juice and lemon peel to the onion mixture and stir in the butter. Cook over medium heat until the butter is thoroughly melted into the mixture. Remove from the heat and blend in the cheese. Stir the mixture into the pasta and divide between two serving dishes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, and pass extra cheese at the table

* * *

We found that white wines worked better than reds with this bright yet substantial dish, one perfectly suited to springtime dining. For the sake of diversity, we are recommending one fairly light red, and would recommend that if this be your color of choice, you stick with a wine that is relatively soft and supple on the palate. With whites, our preferred option, the wine that will pair well will be fairly rich and fleshy on the palate, yet not heavy because not obviously oak-driven. You want something that tastes fresh and lively but that has the weight and body to hold its own with the buttery, cheesy pasta.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County (California) Fumé Blanc 2012

$14

Crisp and bright, with plenty of herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc flavor, but a richer texture than wines made with grapes grown in cooler regions (e.g., the Loire Valley or Marlborough in New Zealand), this wine enlivened the dish but never seemed overwhelmed by it.

Laurent Miquel, Vin de Pays d’Oc (France) Viognier “Verité” 2012

(Imported by Miquel et Fils)

$25

A stunning Viognier, with seductive floral aromas and luscious stone fruit flavors, this voluptuous wine provided a near perfect pairing. Don’t be put off by its humble appellation. It is very, very classy stuff.

Morgan, Monterey (California) “Cotes du Crow’s” 2011

$18

A light to medium bodied wine modeled on wines from the southern Rhône Valley but showing more warmth due to the influence of California’s sunny clime, this blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache gives the dish depth and weight. It’s the one red we’re recommending.

Domaine Sylvaine & Alain Normand, Mâcon Burgundy (France) “La Roche Vineuse” 2011

(Imported by Vintage ’59)

$18

A lovely Mâcon, showing true Chardonnay varietal character enhanced by a mineral-tinged undertone and a steely finish, this wine had just enough body to work well with the rich pasta. Its mélange of enticing flavors only added to our pleasure.

Terlato, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (California) Pinot Grigio 2012

$16

This wine did not excite us when we took a sip before dinner, as it seemed overly heavy and almost bitter in the finish. Those same characteristics, however, enabled it to work well with the dish. The fleshy texture, coupled with the firm, almost austere end note, suddenly seemed enticing rather than off-putting. Don’t drink it if you are expecting a Pinot Grigio made in a northern Italian style. But do try it if you want something that tastes unabashedly Californian.