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How to Cook Pasta in Wine

Say goodbye to standard pasta dinners.

Spaghetti and Fresh Marinara with Basil
Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

The technique of boiling pasta in wine has been getting a lot of buzz recently, so we decided to look into the technique. Good news, vino lovers: We can confirm that this isn't just an Instagram sensation—it's actually a time-tested technique used in Italy, where they call it spaghetti all'ubriaco or "drunken spaghetti." What's more, it's definitely worth a try in your own kitchen, so here's what you need to know.

 

Related: A Beginner's Guide to Italian Wine

 

What Wine Should You Use?

A good rule of thumb is, if you would enjoy drinking it, you'll enjoy cooking your pasta in it. Beyond that, consider this when your selecting a bottle of wine for your pasta. Save the special bottles for drinking, but don't go too cheap. A bottle of wine that you bought on sale or leftover wine are perfect for this dish. Stay away from sweet wines or super tannic reds, unless you're into that. The wine will concentrate as it boils down, and the flavors will intensify, so make sure you like it's taste to begin with. Red wine changes the pasta's color to a burgundy or reddish brown. It may look different than what your used to, embrace it.

 

It's important to note that while most (or even all) of the alcohol evaporates when you boil it, you should still be cautious serving this dish to non-wine drinkers, such as children and those who are avoiding or are sensitive to alcohol.

 

How Do You Do It?

Just like you normally would cook pasta! Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, except this time swap out some of the wine with water. A good rule of thumb is about three cups wine to 5fivecups water. Then boil the pasta per package instructions until al dente. As always, we recommend reserving a bit of pasta water for finishing the sauce before draining. 

 

What Types of Pasta Work Best?

Start with spaghetti and then branch out to your favorite shapes like bucatini, rigatoni, and tagliatelle. Any pasta shape will work.

 

What Sauces Should Be Used with Pasta Cooked in Wine?

Pasta boiled in wine is classically served with a simple sauce, like Aglio e Olio. To make this sauce, toast garlic in oil (or a combo of oil and butter for the richest flavor), then add another dash of wine for good measure, along with pasta water, and the pasta. Toss to coat and heat through before serving with plenty of fresh parmesan.

 

After you try this, the simple yet addictive garlic sauce might be all you ever want to eat, but when you're ready to branch out try any classic Italian sauce. Pair red wine boiled pasta with marinara or carbonara. Consider cacio or pepe or pesto with pasta cooked in white wine. Think about the wine you would drink while eating it and then try boiling your pasta in it. That is a good start.