Annabel Onyango discusses her complicated relationship with pasta while providing simple wine pairing techniques for different pasta dishes.
For a columnist in a food magazine, I cook surprisingly badly. There are only three meals in my repertoire that are edible: scrambled eggs, Caesar salad and spaghetti. I’m what you could call ‘kitchen lazy’, because squinting over recipe books, chopping onions, and lining casserole containers are all agonizingly tedious to me. But with spaghetti – all you need is water, salt and a few minutes boiling time. Serve with olive oil, cheese and a good bottle of wine (Italian wine is optional) and you have a meal fit for a queen.
Fun fact No. 1: Most pasta is best paired with dry white wines. Meat-based pasta dishes such as Bolognese and anything with sausage is generally paired with red wine. Because of their meaty quality, mushroom-based pastas can also be served with lighter reds.
Although I’m unable to make them myself, creamy pastas have the ultimate comfort food status. Egg yolks, cream, layers of cheese – these go with Chardonnays or Chardonnay blends. It’s a meal that sits satisfyingly heavy in your stomach and the stodginess can only be alleviated by a heaped serving of gelato (more cream, yes!) made from milk, cream, sugar and fruit. If you’re going to be bad, be baaad.
Popular tomato recipes like Napoletana love to be eaten with a crisp white wine or very light reds. Using tomato sauce out of a jar is an easy but bland cooking method; add fresh herbs (basil) or spices (chilli).
My favourite pasta recipe of them all is Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli) to which I will typically add generous shavings of parmesan. Cooked al dente, it’s a great pasta dish not just for the simplicity of its preparation, but also for its varied tastes and textures, which ultimately allow your wine to shine.
Fun Fact No. 2: Zinfandel (Primitivo in Italian) pairs excellently with tomato AND cream-based lasagnas, cannellonis and spaghettis. It varies from a robust red wine to a semi-sweet rosé.
Pasta has a bad rep in the fashion and entertainment industries because its deliciousness commensurates with the amount of girth it adds to your thighs. As such, pasta should generally be consumed in the privacy of one’s own home, preferably only on gym days.
Fun Fact No. 3: Eating pasta might be the happiest activity on earth. Carbohydrates in pasta contain serotonin which is a happy hormone. Studies show that serotonin is linked to sleeping well, feeling good and living longer!