Marinating chicken in wine gives it plenty of flavor.© Mypointofview |

Red wine has always been a staple in our house.  Growing up, there was the omnipresent Chianti bottle which held wine that was less than stellar but became awesome candle holders for my dorm room when the wine was finished.  Luckily, my tastes have graduated to something a bit more elegant than what was found in those straw-wrapped bottles and the wine from the famed region has improved tremendously from those straw-lined days.

That said, there are still days when my wine purchase misses the mark and although a decent wine, isn’t exactly what I was expecting. What to do with a awesome bottle of vino rosso that doesn’t live up to expectations? Don’t let that bottle go to waste – use it for cooking! The two recipes below are a great way to use up that bottle and are great for weeknights as they can be on the table in well under an hour.

Red wine can add depth and flavor to plenty of dishes. Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

The first, spaghetti all’ubriaco translates to “drunken spaghetti.”  I first had this pasta in a little trattoria in Florence.  The shock of purple pasta on the plate had me wondering if I should have chosen another dish.  However, one bite and I was hooked.  The wine infuses the pasta with this subtle spectacular undertone.  And the pasta turns a heavenly purple.  Cook the pasta for just a minute or two in boiling water to soften then toss it in the vino.  Super easy!

The second recipe is one my mother made (too) frequently at home.  She would bathe chicken thighs overnight in wine from one of the straw-lined Chianti bottles.  The following day, we could smell the garlic frying in the pan early in the morning.  We would awake to a huge pot of these beautifully colored chicken thighs. Neighbors would clamor for this dish and she frequently sent tray after tray out the door for picnics or family reunions.  This dish is pure comfort food for me. Simple. Delicious. Home.  You will love it too.

So – next time you have a bottle of vino rosso that doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, use it to infuse your dinner with an element of surprise.

Buon appetito!

Spaghetti all’Ubriaco (Drunken Spaghetti)
● ¼ cup olive oil
● 3 large cloves garlic, diced
● Pinch red pepper flakes
● 1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine (Chianti or Sangiovese are good choices)
● Salt
●  Freshly ground black pepper
● 1 pound spaghetti
● A few handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
● Grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.

2. In the meantime, using a skillet large enough to hold the spaghetti, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes.  Stir. Pour in the bottle of wine carefully (as it may splatter) and bring to a simmer.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Once the water in the pot boils, add in the spaghetti and cook for just a few minutes. (Note: The longer you cook in the water, the less wine the pasta will absorb.)  Transfer the spaghetti to the simmering wine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spaghetti is ‘al dente’. Check the package directions to be sure. It should be about 6 minutes.

4. Transfer the spaghetti to a warm platter and top with chopped fresh parsley and plenty of grated Parmesan.  Serve immediately.

Chicken with Wine
● 1 bottle ( 750 ml) dry red wine
● 4-6 chicken thighs, skinless
● Salt
● Freshly ground pepper
● About 4 ounces pancetta, diced
● A few tablespoons olive oil
● 3 cloves garlic, diced
● Leaves from one sprig fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

1. Pour the bottle of wine into a bowl large enough to accommodate the chicken thighs.  Add the chicken thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to overnight.

2. Drain the chicken, reserving the wine. Pat chicken dry and season on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.

3. In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat the pancetta over medium low heat until the fat renders out (about 5 minutes).  Remove pancetta to a small bowl and set aside.

4. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium high heat. Add the chicken thighs and sear until brown on both sides, about 5-8 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium-low.  Add the garlic and rosemary to the pan. Saute until the garlic is fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes.  Add the reserved wine to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Allow to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the chicken back to the pot.  Reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Remove lid and remove chicken to a warmed platter.  Simmer wine mixture until further reduced, about 5 minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with pancetta, fresh parsley and serve.

Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog

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