Serious Eats: Recipes

Seriously Italian: Spaghetti All'Ubriaco

Editor's note: On Thursdays, Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma checks in with Seriously Italian. After a stint in Rome, she's back in the States, channeling her inner Italian spirit via recipes and intel on delicious Italian eats. Take it away, Gina!

"I was so visibly excited by it, my waiter led me into the kitchen to shake the chef's hand and learn how to make it."

Every now and then the intrepid eater will encounter a dish that can only be described as mind-blowing. My first bite of this spaghetti, served at a bustling osteria not far from Florence's Piazza Santa Croce, almost made my head spin right off. I was so visibly excited by it, my waiter led me into the kitchen to shake the chef's hand and learn how to make it.

Spaghetti All'Ubriaco translates as "drunken spaghetti;" the drunk part comes from cooking the pasta in a bath of red wine. The pasta takes on a purple-brown hue and sucks up all the wine flavor, and is then finished in a pan with a bit of butter, olive oil, toasted garlic and splash of raw wine.

Man, this is good stuff. I'm talking "off the charts, eat-it-right-outta-the-pan" good, standing up, hunched over your counter—a dish you want to keep on eating until a button flies away from your midsection.

All you need to reach a similar height of ecstasy is a decent bottle or two of red wine—nothing special, just good, drinkable red wine. In Italy, this is the sort of thing you would cook with sfuso, or loose wine that is sold, fill-your-own-bottle style by the local enoteca, consortium, or vineyard. Don't blow a bottle of riserva on this recipe, but use a wine that you would not hesitate drinking.

The only caveat is in stepping over the rule of boiling pasta in a large amount of boiling water. Here you can feel fine about cooking the pasta in less liquid than you are normally accustomed to using. The proportion isn't as drastic as some of the tests in this recent New York Times article, but it is important to stir the pasta often to prevent any sticking. The overall reduction in liquid preserves the wine flavor that the pasta absorbs, and the final shot of wine in the pan concentrates it. I use one-half part water and one-half part wine. You can cut all of the proportions down for smaller servings. For a single four-ounce portion of spaghetti, I use 2 cups water and 2 cups wine.

I love this recipe because it serves duel purposes: a cool and funky primi course if you are entertaining, or a bowl full of truly yummy comfort food when you simply have to suck down some pasta in your jammies.

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