Spaghetti Cooked in White Wine — with and without clams

Spaghetti Cooked in White Wine – with and without clams

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti, preferably DeCecco brand

1-750 ml bottle dry white wine (not aged in oak)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 2 teaspoons fresh

1-1/2 teaspoons sugar


1 large pinch red pepper flakes

4-5 ounces baby spinach

1 cup torn fresh basil leaves (optional but tasty)

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter, softened

½ cup panko bread crumbs

1– Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

2– Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet, and add the panko bread crumbs with a big pinch of salt.  Heat over medium heat until the crumbs get lightly browned, then take them off the heat.

3– In a 12-inch skillet that has a lid, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute the onion along with a teaspoon of salt, the oregano, and the red pepper flakes until it’s very soft and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute.

4– Stir in 1-1/2 cups of wine, bring to a boil, and let the mixture cook until it’s reduced to about ½ a cup.  This will take 8 to 10 minutes.  (See next step after 5 minutes.)  Turn off the heat and cover the skillet once the wine has reduced.

5– When about 5 minutes have passed during the wine boiling, put the spaghetti in the boiling salted water.  When the water comes back to the boil, start timing – you’ll want to cook it for about 1/3 the time that the package says is the amount of time for it to be al dente.  For DeCecco regular spaghetti (#12) this is 12 minutes, so you’ll boil it for 4 to 5 minutes in the water.  Just before the time is up, take out 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and set it aside.

6– While the spaghetti is in the water, add the rest of the wine and the sugar, and bring the mixture up to the boil over high heat.  Drain the spaghetti and add it to the skillet.  Lower the heat and simmer until the pasta is cooked, another 8 minutes or so, stirring thoroughly every 30 seconds.  Add some of the pasta water if there’s not enough liquid to cook the pasta.

7– When the pasta is done, add ½ cup of pasta water and scatter the spinach and basil on top.  Put the lid on and cook for a minute, then stir the spinach into the pasta, along with the cheese and the soft butter.  Add more pasta water if you need to, it should be a little saucy and not dry.  Serve in slightly warm bowls, topped with some of the toasted bread crumbs.

For Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce

16-24 small clams, scrubbed, depending on size and appetite

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Proceed through step 4.  When the wine has reduced, add the clams.  Turn the heat to very low and put the lid on the skillet.  The clams should open in 3 to 5 minutes.  Then remove the clams to a bowl, leaving the clam liquid in the skillet, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.  In step 7, scatter the clams and lemon zest on top when you add the spinach and basil, and omit the cheese.

Top each serving with the toasted bread crumbs.