Spaghetti al Vino Bianco

Every time I have ever made pasta I have cooked it solely in boiling water. This recipe only partially cooks the spaghetti in water, then finishes cooking it in wine, adding great flavor to every strand of pasta. By the end of cooking, the wine’s liquid had fully evaporated and the only other liquid component was a little heavy cream. The 5 cups of wilted baby arugula was much too bitter for kids (who ate around it). In the end, everyone at the table agreed that this the best pasta dish I’ve made in 2012. 4-1/2 stars

Great meal, but the kids hated the arugula.


  1. While the pancetta is delicious, it doesn’t taste sufficiently different from bacon to warrant spending $4. Instead, I’d recommend saving your money; just use bacon. In fact, everyone at my dinner table wanted more pancetta, so using bacon will also make it easier to boost it up to 6-or-8 ounces.
  2. Oh no! I forgot the pine nuts. Having already spent $4 on bag of pine nuts, I was extremely disappointed to realize having arrived at step 10 that I was supposed to have previously toasted the pine nuts. Dinner was ready to go to the table so it was too late. I added the step to the instructions below to remind me next time. This is a common complaint I have with many of Chris Kimball’s recipe; important parts of the instruction are embedded in the ingredient list, causing last minute panic.
  3. Pecorino Romano is made from pasteurized ewe’s milk, and the original recipe calls for just 1-ounce, plus some additional cheese to serve at the dinner table. But I’d recommend boosting up the cheese to at least 2 ounces.
  4. The 5-cups of wilted baby arugula was too bitter for both my kids, even the more adventurous of the two. Fortunately my kids were able to push it to the side of the plate without complaining about any after taste.
  5. $20 seems pretty expensive for a pasta dinner, but splurging on a delicious, home-made family meal is always worth the cost. The main reasons why it was so expensive were: $9 for bottle of wine, $4 for pancetta and $3 for baby arugula. Plus there is the cheese and pine nuts.
  6. Originally I was planning to make home-made pasta for this recipe, the recipe requires it to cook too long for fresh pasta. Use dried pasta.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $20.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:20 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4-oz pancetta or bacon
2 garlic cloves
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 bottle dry white wine (750 ml)
Salt and pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
5-oz baby arugula
1/3 cup heavy cream
1-oz grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts

  1. Add 4 quarts water to large pot, add 1 tablespoon of table salt, and place over medium-high burner. It will take up to 15 minutes to bring to a boil.
  2. Place 12″ skillet over medium-low burner and toasted pine nuts in a dry skillet; shaking constantly until they become golden brown. Set aside on a plate to cool.
  3. Cut pancetta or bacon into 1/4″ pieces. Place your 12″ skillet over medium-high burner and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until shimmering. Cook pancetta for 4 to 5 minutes until crispy. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat.
  4. Peel garlic cloves and put skillet over medium-low burner. Use a garlic press to press garlic gloves directly into skillet, add pepper flakes, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes until the garlic turns lightly golden.
  5. Add 1-1/2 cups of wine to garlic in the skillet. Reduce over medium-high for 8 to 10 minutes until you have just 1/2 cup. Season with 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Depending upon what type of wine you used, add up to 1 tablespoon of sugar to adjust sweetness according to your taste.
  6. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. The pasta will be only partially cooked. Set aside 2 cups of the water used to cook the pasta, then drain in colander.
  7. Put skillet with the reduced wine over a medium burner. Add partially-cooked pasta and another 1/2-cup of wine to skillet. Cook until the wine has been fully absorbed, tossing the spaghetti constantly.  Continue adding the rest of the wine bottle, 1/2-cup at a time tossing until all the wine is incorporated and the pasta has cooked in skillet for a total of 8 minutes (al dente). If you run out of wine before the pasta is al dente, then use 1/2-cup of the pasta water.
  8. Put the baby arugula on top of the pasta, add 1/4-cup of the pasta water, cover and allow to stand for 1 minute.
  9. Add cream and 1/4-cup of grated cheese, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning of salt and pepper according to your taste.
  10. Place on serving platter. Top with crispy pancetta and another 1/4-cup of grated cheese. Coarsely chop the pine nuts and sprinkle over pasta. Serve with additional grated cheese passed separately.

2 Responses to Spaghetti al Vino Bianco

  1. Jon says:

    Next time will you use spinach or other greens?

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