Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all'Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi #ItalianFWT
Updated: Feb 5
This month the Italian Food Wine Travel writers are sharing wines and pairings from Puglia. Lynn from Savor the Harvest is hosting. You can read her invitation here.
Puglia, called Apulia in Italian, is the heel of Italy's boot. It's the long, narrow strip of land with nearly 500 miles of coastline. Though I have never been to the region, it's where R landed on his overnight ferry from Greece during his Spring Break trip in 2019.
Spring Break trip to Greece and Italy, March 2019
This long and narrow piece of land with over 800 km of coastline forms the heel of Italy's "boot". It's a wine region that borders the Basilicata, Campania, and Molise regions. And the #ItalianFWT group will be exploring that next month with Jen of Vino Travels at the head of the discussion. Stay tuned.
Though we are not going to gather for a chat this month, here's the line-up of articles on Pugliese wines and pairings...
A Rare Puglian Grape - Susumaniello by Vino Travels
An Unconventional Style of Primitivo - 2020 Produttori Di Manduria Electric Bee Primitivo by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Borgo Turrito Focuses on Nero di Troia in Foggia in Puglia by Grapevine Adventures
Family Traditions: Domus Hortae’s organic wines from the heel of Italy, Puglia by Wine Predator...Gwendolyn Alley
Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all'Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi by Culinary Cam (you're here)
Negro Amaro Three Ways from Puglia by Savor the Harvest
Octopus with Polenta and a Rosato from Puglia inspired by The Food Club by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Primitivo from Gioia del Colle, A Revelation by Avvinare
Salice Salentino from Puglia with Ciceri e tria by Crushed Grape Chronicles
In My Glass
The wine I paired with my killer pasta was a killer wine: 2019 Marchese Di Borgosole Brindisi Riserva DOC. Brindisi is a port city on the Adriatic Sea, in southern Italy’s Apulia region.
Some information I found called it a single varietal; others said that there is a splash of Malvasia Nera in the blend to soften the wine. Regardless, this is a full-bodied red that screamed to be paired with meat or a tomato-based dish. More on that soon.
The Negroamaro grape seems to thrive in Italy's boot. There is some debate about the etymology of the grape's name. While negro is Italian (and Latin) for 'black', it's debated whether amaro is from the Italian word for 'bitter' or from the Greek mavro which also means 'black.' Regardless, vines were brought from Greece to Apulia in the 7th century BC and winemaking has persisted in the area since then.
The wine poured an inky reddish-purple with ample aromas of black fruit such as ripe cherries as well as notes of vanilla and chocolate. As the wine sat in the glass, I noted the scent of violets. On the palate, the wine was velvety. Its flavors mirrored the cherry aromas along with an acidity pop of cola and savoriness of fennel.
Some Pugliese Inspiration
In preparation for this event, I opened a few bottles of wine from Puglia and shared one pairing already: A Susumaniello from Puglia with Smoked Ribs. Then Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm recommended the movie The Food Club and I watched it immediately, though halfway through, Jake commented that he was pretty sure we had watched it before. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this movie about three Danish women who travel to Puglia for a cooking class.
I considered making another batch of Homemade Orechiette as they make that in the movie and there is a Strada delle Orechiette in Bari! But my Kitchen Elves are off at college and I didn't feel like kneading the dough and forming the ears all by myself. In the end I was inspired by the Puglia episode from Stanley Tucci's food and travel series, Searching for Italy. It's season 2, episode 7, if you are interested.
In the Puglia episode, Tucci visits Urban Bistrot in Bari where Chef Celso Laforgia makes nine different variants of Spaghetti all'Assassina. For Tucci, Laforgia makes the classic, but, after a look at his menu, I am intrigued by the Assassina 2.0 that has an addition of stracciatella or the San Juannidde that includes capers and anchovy pesto. According to Laforgia, Spaghetti all'Assassina got its name because the first person who tried the dish called the chef a killer since it was so spicy. There you have it: killer pasta.
I had never cooked a pasta dish that didn't involve cooking the pasta ahead of time, so I was game to try. During the episode, Tucci also expresses his surprise: “Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like that before." Me neither!
My process is an adaptation of Laforgia's as I used fresh tomatoes and some red wine in my version. But I did go against every instinct in my body as I plunked dried spaghetti into the tomato sauce. The result was delicious, toothy, and a little bit of smoky intrigue. If you try this process, let me know what you think.
serves 3 to 4
1 pound spaghetti (like the name though on Laforgia's menu, he specifies vermicelli)
2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil plus more as needed
1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper chile flakes, depending on your spice preference
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup leftover red wine plus more water as needed
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt to taste
Also needed: Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil into a large, flat-bottom pan (I used my Le Creuset Braiser). Add in the garlic and red pepper chile flakes. Cook until the garlic is aromatic, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Take care not to let the garlic burn or it will be bitter.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook until softened and beginning to lose their shape, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, then pour in the water and wine.
Add in the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and lay the dried spaghetti over the top of the sauce.
Stir the pasta so that it's coated in the tomato sauce. With a wooden spoon, carefully turn the spaghetti, letting it stick a little to the bottom of the pan. Pour in a ladleful of water and continue, as if you were preparing a risotto, adding liquid and stirring until the pasta starts to crackle, approximately 8 to 9 minutes.
Once the pasta is cooked, fold in almost all of the parsley. Save a few pinches for garnish.
To serve, place portions in individual serving bowls. Top with more parsley and let each diner grate Parmigiano Reggiano over the top.
That's a wrap for my Pugliese offering. The group will be back next month with wines from Molise, Basilicata, and Campania. Stay tuned!