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Pasta dishes full of bright, fresh herbs are ideal for summer months.
I recharged the air conditioner in the truck just in the nick of time. This week the heat came out in full force, telling me to seal the windows shut and and set the thermostat a little lower. Summer in Mobile is a game changer. My menu is immediately different when the mid-80s roll in with their promise of an intense climb. I drink rosé all year long, but while my reds remain stocked, I seek out colder, brighter whites to plug in the holes. The same goes for pasta sauces.
You have to have a red and white option all year long, whether it’s wine or sauce. Below are a couple of sauces I pulled out for the upcoming months, really just things I prefer in the heat. I feel the pairings are pretty good, too. Be open minded, but avoid the oak.
A lot of people I know are growing their own herbs. It’s something you can do with decent success even on the balcony of an apartment. Pesto is one of those easy-to-make sauces that can be processed in bulk ahead of time and either jarred or frozen in ice cube trays. The run-of-the-mill pesto is made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic (if you wish) and olive oil in a food processor. A squirt of lemon juice or zest and a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese make this sauce a summer favorite of mine.
I prefer my pesto with bow tie pasta and Gulf shrimp. The oily sauce really gets in the nooks and crannies of the pasta and coats the shrimp well for an attractive as well as flavorful dish. I even like it chilled. Generally, something white and cold would be my choice for wine pairing, but that would depend on what type of pesto you’re having. Any combination of greenery and nuts could be considered pesto.
I might recommend a Chenin blanc for a pesto with cilantro and peanuts or cashews. Maybe you’d enjoy a Sancerre with salmon and a pesto of kale and walnuts. Spinach makes a good pesto, and pecans could warrant a red over a white. Change your cheese from Parmesan to goat cheese and you’ll open many new doors for wines.
Experiment with what’s available. Mix and match as the summer goes along. Almonds, macadamia nuts and pistachios make great pesto, as does flat-leaf parsley.
Have you ever made this one? There are disputes over the origins of this great pasta sauce, but there’s no dispute over the origin of the word. It comes from the Italian word “puttana,” which means whore. Blushing aside, there are several different ways to create the sauce, served usually with spaghetti, but most of those recipes can be made without opening the refrigerator. Perhaps the name refers to the ingredients being worthless, or maybe even easy. You may have all of the ingredients in your pantry and veggie bowl. With such ease, this is a sauce I love in the summer due to its tanginess.
One region may omit an ingredient in exchange for another, but for me, what qualifies a sauce as puttanesca is a base of tomatoes (fresh or canned), anchovies, olives, capers, oregano and fresh herbs such as basil or parsley. I feel it’s more traditional to go with parsley, but with a thrown-together sauce fit for a prostitute, why not try both?
Some of you may tout puttanesca as a cold-weather sauce, but I find the olives and capers uplifting enough for summer red sauce. As far as pairing goes, Chianti is an easy choice, but you may want to branch out. Primitivo from the southern part of Italy is recommended, similar to zinfandels we find here in the United States on the left coast. If you must go white, avoid oaky chardonnay. Sauvignon blanc could work.
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup diced red onion
• 5 anchovy fillets
• 32-ounce can whole tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• ½ cup pitted and chopped olives, your choice
• 2 teaspoons capers
• ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
• Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic. As soon as you can smell it, toss in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Dice the anchovies and add them to the onions, cooking for another minute. Use a fork or knife to crush the tomatoes in the can and add them, with their juices, to the pan. Season the sauce with oregano.
Add the olives, capers and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat to reduce, perhaps 20 minutes or so. Taste the sauce to check for saltiness. There’s a lot of salt already from the anchovies, olives and capers, but adjust if necessary. Last but not least, adding parsley by the fistful will spring you into summertime.
Spaghetti is my preferred noodle. Linguini is a distant second. I’m not that fond of this sauce with penne or bow tie pasta, nor do I like it with fragile angel’s hair. If you’re going low carb, I’d suggest zucchini noodles. This sauce doesn’t require cheese, but I doubt the kids have ever had spaghetti without a spoonful of pasta sugar.
Katie has made this sauce with grape tomatoes, throwing them in whole and cooking them until they pop. It was delicious.
Pesto and puttanesca. Sounds like an Italian folk-rock duo. I wouldn’t have them on the same day, but spread them out over the summer and you’ll be pleased.
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