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.
225 grams (1/2 lb) spaghetti
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)
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.
(You can heat up the reserved leeks in a microwave oven if needed.)