Wine Trail - Cook's Edition

Pasta with Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chile Recipe

devised by Chef Michael Symon


 erenditpy. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. (Oxford Living Dictionaries.) For many, it is the pairing of food and wine that is a wonderful ongoing quest. Making wine not just a beverage but something that enhances both the food and the wine. There are vast amounts of recommendations of 'what goes good with what', but in the end it is the dining that is the proof. Sometimes a bite of food and a sip of wine 'sings' in your mouth. Sit back and enjoy.

As we write this, the end of tomato season is upon us. A few green and red tomatoes persist out on the vines that are turning yellow. The wine harvest has begun and fall is a few days away. Looking for a way to highlight the few ripe red tomatoes remaining, we hit upon a recipe entitled "Linguine with Heirloom Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chile Recipe" on the Serious Eats website. They got it from Live to Cook by Michael Symon. Serious Eats changed the recipe to use dried pasta.  We used fresh. They say use 'really good tomatoes'. For that, we agree, but urge you to try the recipe with the best you can find. The tomatoes on our vines are not 'heirloom'. As much as the flavor of  heirloom tomatoes can be extraordinary, for us the yield isn't enough. We mostly grow Better Boys. Just about any homegrown tomato is going to be far, far better than what you will ever buy at the store.

When we prepared the meal we weren't thinking of it as one for a wine pairing blog. We didn't take a lot of prep pictures. Looking for a wine to go with it, we settled on a Nalle Cab/Merlot blend.

Then, just a couple of tastes and few sips and.... Serendipity. A perfect pairing. The food got even better (and it was good before). The wine got even better (and it was good before).

Therefore, we encourage you to try this out and see for yourself (and let us know!).

Super Salt: Capers & Anchovies

Chef Symon's original recipe calls for salt packed capers and salt packed anchovies. In a perfect world we'd all have these in the house. Well, we DO like salt-packed anchovies and have gotten them at a local Italian grocery (they seem to freeze well). But we didn't have any when this recipe came up. And salt-packed capers? Not sure we've even seen them. Because the dish turned out so wonderful with the wine, we aren't complaining.  Maybe if we had the real things it would have been that much better. Or, maybe, the wine was matching the oil cured anchovies and the brined  capers. Bottom line: experiment. These are wonderful things and searching for them and trying them is part of the fun.

Now if you are going to use oil packed anchovies, they say (well, somebody says, we guess) to use ones that are packed in a good olive oil. But we didn't have any of that, either (see the picture below).  Once again, it didn't hurt the pairing, so we're not complaining.

Anchovies are one of those things that fall into the 'ewww' category. Tell somebody that there are anchovies in a dish and you get 'ewww', not gonna eat that.  We've found that a little bit of anchovy heightens a lot of dishes (see what our discussion of 'umami' and flavor in the gravy section of our roast chicken recipe). When there isn't a lot, we don't see any reason for highlighting their inclusion (that way when they ask they can find out how good anchovies are!).This dish revolves around anchovies so you have to either be a fan, or experiment to find out that you will be a fan.

By the way, remember that if a recipe is calling for whole anchovies, there are two fillets to be had.

Bread Crumbs?

When we were a bit more naive, we thought that when a recipe called for bread crumbs we should get out one of those brightly  colored round cardboard boxes with dry grainy bread typically seasoned with things like onion powder, oregano and a lot of salt. Now we know better. But the truth is when a recipe says bread crumbs there still can be confusion.

Is it:

1. Fresh bread whirred up in a food processor?
2. Dried bread whirred up in a food processor?
3. Fresh bread whirred up in a food processor then toasted in a pan?
4. All the other ways of doing it as well....

The answer is. All of the above, of course. The problem is, we have found that not all recipes tell you what they really mean. Meatballs are a classic example. Often there is bread, or bread crumbs soaked in milk called for. A random Bon Appetit recipe we found specifically calls for FRESH breadcrumbs which are soaked in the milk. A random Kitchn (the website) recipe has the milk but just says 'fine breadcrumbs'. Since the goal is to add moisture we suspect whatever original recipe was being followed, it probably meant fresh. We'll never know. When it comes to meatballs it can make a big difference.

For this recipe, we want fresh breadcrumbs which we will then dry.

Keep an eye out for this. You may be surprised how much it will change your recipe!

Now we have to admit we didn't need to show you how to put bread in a food processor (though we do like our little mini-processors for some things, we have 3 different sizes of those). We just really like the packaging for the BIMBO brand white bread. So many recipes call for a "good white bread" (maybe even home made). Still, we've found this bread to be pretty good, heavier and sturdier than many and less 'weird' ingredients, at least where we buy it. We keep it in the freezer for bread crumbs and Thanksgiving stuffing like our grandmother used to make. Recipes also seem to always say to cut off the crust. We didn't. You'd never know.

We find that when we're toasting the crumbs, we turn off the heat about when it looks like the third image. Then keep stirring until it is uniformly light brown. Less chance of burning it that way.

You could also completely ignore the skillet and just dry the bread out in an oven, then whir it up. Do what suits you best.

Cooking Dried Pasta

When it is just us and we want to have a salad before our pasta dinner, we almost always par cook it. While you can do it without our handy pasta pot, we think it is a great investment. It has a colander type insert that lets you lift the pasta out of the pot and, more importantly, put it back in. You have to experiment because all pastas are different, but we find that 5 or 6 minutes in boiling water is enough to get things going. We take the insert with the partially cooked pasta out and set it aside till is time to be eaten.  By that time residual heat has almost cooked it through and it just takes a minute or two in the boiling water to finish it up.

Pasta Pot

The Recipe

Several slices of  bread (we like any variety of a white style bread for this recipe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound linguine, fresh or dried
1 large tomato, diced (about 1 cup). Home grown, height of the season is best,
    but a good quality canned plum tomato, drained and diced will be fine (we often sprinkle
    a little salt and a little sugar on them which seems to mask the tinny flavor that some
    canned tomatoes have). We also suggest you use WHOLE canned tomatoes, they seem
    to have less of that odd flavor).
6 salt packed anchovies, rinsed, filleted, and minced or 12 oil packed anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers or capers in brine, either kind rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt, preferably Kosher

Whir up enough bread in a food processor to make 1 cup of crumbs. We'd like to be more specific but this completely depends on what bread you use. You can always start out with some and make a bit more until you get the hang of the bread you typically use.  You are using bread crumbs INSTEAD OF CHEESE, use more if you like. (Don't use cheese in this dish!)

Heat a large dry skillet over medium heat (we use a large cast iron pan). Put in the fresh bread crumbs. Stir often, and cook until they are almost lightly browned.  Turn off the heat and keep stirring. Bread crumbs brown up quickly and you risk browning them to much (or burning them) if you aren't vigilant or use too high a heat. Remove to another dish so that they don't overcook. Put them in a sealed dish if you can't stop from snacking on them (as we do) as you are cooking.

Get your pasta pot water boiling (don't forget to salt it).
Pour the tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the sliced garlic and cook until lightly browned, one to two minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

You are going to need your boiled pasta, but when you start it depends on whether it is fresh (cooks in a few minutes), par boiled (also finishes in a few minutes) or dried (may take around 11 minutes). You'll want it to be ready just as the sauce if finished. Cook it until it is al dente.

Add the diced tomato, anchovies, capers, and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Stir well (mashing up the anchovies so they mix into the oil), and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about two minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the parsley and extra-virgin olive oil. Stir well.

Transfer the cooked pasta with a pair of tongs directly from the pot to the skillet. Toss well. Divide the pasta between four HOT plates, and top each with a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt. (See the Roast Chicken recipe to see why you should be serving on HOT Plates!)

Note: The two of us like pasta and for this dish, we make 2/3rds of the all the ingredients (give or take) except for the pasta where we would use 10oz dried.

Closeup Dish

You can easily cut this recipe in half or even 2/3rds, depending on how much pasta you like to eat. For a main course we'd probably eat more than the 1/4 of this recipe.  But then that's just us.

Wine Pairing

2014 Nalle Estate CabNalle Winery
As we said above, we weren't looking for a Nalle wine when we decided to make this dish. Instead it was the idea that a Bordeaux style blend might be a good pairing with the ingredients.

Only then did we happen to pick the 2013 Henderlong Ranch Cab/Merlot blend. Maybe there are other wines that will pair as well, but if you have or can get your hands on this one, it would be worth trying out. We really thought it was tremendous with this recipe.

The winery tells us that the 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (75% Cab/25% Merlot) should be similar and as we write this it is readily available. We were so struck with the Nalle Bourdeaux blend pairing that this would be really worth seeking out.
Nalle Winery Squirrels


Here is a summary of the recipe in a .pdf you can print