Spaghetti with Red Wine and Leeks (Spaghetti Ubriachi)

I had some leeks and wanted to make a pasta dish with leeks. I looked for inspiration on GialloZafferano, the leading Italian cooking website (in Italian, although some of their YouTube vids including this one are also available dubbed in English), and my query for “porro” (leek) returned a recipe for spaghetti with red wine and leeks called Spaghetti Ubriachi (‘drunken’ spaghetti). The recipe looked very simple and worth trying, so I gave it a go. I was not disappointed: a lot of flavor in less than half an hour: a perfect weekday dish. I wouldn’t shy away from serving this as the pasta course at a dinner party either.

Since the red wine plays a major role in this dish, you should definitely use a good full-bodied red wine that is good enough to drink. As you only need about 1/3 of the bottle, you can drink the other 2/3 with the dish. It is never a good idea to use bad wine for cooking, but in this case it is even more important to pick a decent one. It also helps to look for a good pecorino that is not just salty like some of the cheaper pecorino romano. Pecorino from Tuscany (toscano) or Sardinia (sardo) is usually a good choice if you can get it. If you can only find very salty pecorino romano, I’d recommend to substitute half of it with parmigiano reggiano for added depth. (Or you could even consider to use Spanish sheep’s cheese, manchego).

I hardly ever cook a recipe exactly as written. In this case I decreased the sugar and increased the leeks. Here’s my version.


For 3 servings

225 grams (1/2 lb) spaghetti

2 leeks

250 ml (1 cup) full-bodied red wine, preferably Italian, such as barbera or chianti

freshly grated pecorino cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

30 grams (2 Tbsp butter)


Use only the white and light green part of the leeks. Cut in half lengthwise and then slice thinly (4 mm – 1/6 inch).

Heat the butter in a frying pan. Add the leeks and a bit of salt. Sauté for a minute until covered with butter.

Lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until the leeks are cooked but still have some bite, stirring now and then. This will take 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the spaghetti and salt. Cook al dente according to package instructions.

When the leeks are done, remove about 6 Tbsp of the cooked leeks and keep separate.

When the leeks are cooked and you have removed 6 Tbsp of the leeks to use for garnish later, add the red wine to the remaining leeks.

Add a pinch of sugar and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Let this simmer for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol and to let it thicken slightly.

Transfer the leeks and wine to the food processor, or use an immersion blender.

Blend until smooth.

Return the leeks-wine mixture to the pan and keep warm. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, freshly ground black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, and/or sugar.

Drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce, together with freshly grated pecorino cheese. (Reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water if the sauce ended up too dry, and add it to the sauce.)

Toss to mix.

As usually, serve immediately on warm plates, topped with the reserved leeks and more freshly grated pecorino.

(You can heat up the reserved leeks in a microwave oven if needed.)

10 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Red Wine and Leeks (Spaghetti Ubriachi)

  1. A couple years ago, spaghetti cooked in red wine was making the rounds on some of our cooking shows. I never really cared to try it but I don’t recall any of the recipes using leeks like yours does. I just may give it a try after all. Thanks, Stefan.


    1. I also tried a recipe for spaghetti cooked in wine, but this is slightly different as the wine is the sauce and not the cooking liquid. If you do get around to trying it, I would love to hear how it turned out!


  2. Love it. I love red wine. I love leeks. I love pecorino cheese. I love spaghetti. Fresh ingredients in a simple preparation. How can you go wrong with this. Nicely done, yet again, Stefan.


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