Michael Natkin's Peppery Absorption-Cooked Red-Wine Capellini

Michael Natkin's Peppery Absorption-Cooked Red-Wine Capellini

[Photograph: Michael Natkin]

Michael Natkin, author of Herbivoracious, is an outside of the box kind of thinker. And it's precisely that kind of thinking that gives his meatless creations so much style. Take this Peppery Absorption-Cooked Red-Wine Capellini for example—but first take everything you know about pasta-making and throw it out of the window.

Instead of your usual boil, stain, and sauce method, Natkin has created a method where the pasta is toasted, tossed with sautéed vegetables, and finished in a blend of water and red wine. Seasoned with smoked paprika, cayenne, rosemary, and oregano, this pasta is packed with loads of big flavors, fresh veggies, and the pasta itself is toasty and winey.

What Worked: This atypical pasta preparation will open up a whole new world of possibilities once you realize that pasta and sauce can coexist in the same pot.

What Didn't: Not a thing. We're well into the absorption method.

Suggested Tweaks: Tweak away; red wine, white wine, and stock would all make for wonderful absorption pasta sauces.

Reprinted with permission from Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin. Copyright © 2012. Published by Harvard Common Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

  • Yield:serves 4
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • 1 pound capellini
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Half a large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine (I use an inexpensive Spanish Tempranillo), plus additional as needed
  • 1 1/4 cups water, plus additional as needed
  • Minced fresh flatleaf parsley leaves, for garnish


  1. 1.

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Break the capellini into approximately 3-inch lengths. Spread the pasta on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven, and toast, tossing occasionally with tongs, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot (at least 5 1/2 quarts) with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook, allowing them only to soften and grow aromatic but not brown, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini and another pinch of salt. Sauté until the zucchini is well browned, about 5 more minutes.

  3. 3.

    Place the noodles on top of the zucchini mixture. Layer the asparagus and 1 cup of the cherry tomatoes on top of that and sprinkle in the smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, and rosemary. Pour the red wine and water over the top. Toss as best you can with tongs; it will be hard at first because the noodles are stiff. Return the heat to medium and cover the pot.

  4. 4.

    Every 3 minutes, remove the lid and toss the pasta. The total cooking time will be 8 to 12 minutes. Toward the end, taste a noodle each time you remove the lid to see if it is done. If not, and there isn’t any moisture left on the bottom of the pot, add a bit more wine or water, about 1/3 cup.

  5. 5.

    When the noodles are done to your liking, taste and make any final adjustments to the seasoning. Transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, the parsley, and another grind of black pepper. Serve immediately.