This vegetarian pasta recipe was, like many of my favorite dishes, pulled out of thin air and comprised of leftovers. It was made even better by having a delicious Portuguese red wine to accompany the prep work, add a little zip to the sauce, and enjoy with the meal.
First, the wine. The Quinta dos Murças Assobio is a blend of three traditional Portuguese grapes that normally you would see in port: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional. But this is no fortified, sweet, after-dinner wine. The Assobio is a gutsy, lively red that you can enjoy while your sauce is simmering and your pasta water is boiling.
Here’s what I had to work with:
- 1/2 an onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 package tofu, cubed into die-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 2 cups whole, peeled tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups spinach
- Panko bread crumbs
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Dried pasta
I first caramelized the onion in some olive oil in a stainless steel fry pan, which takes some time over low heat. If you try to caramelize onions over high heat, you get burnt, black onions. (Not so good.) Then I added the garlic and tofu, until the garlic became fragrant. Toss in the wine and scrape any tasty bits of onion, garlic, and/or tofu off the bottom of the pan. You can crush the tomatoes with your hands or whir them with a stick blender in a separate bowl before adding them to the pan. In a separate pot, cook whatever shaped pasta you have on hand per the directions on the package, drain, and add to the sauce. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Generously sprinkle the top of the pan with panko bread crumbs and grated Pecorino and run under the broiler until you see some browning. This is why it’s nice to have a stainless steel pan, so you can safely subject it to the broiler. Just, please, remember to use a towel or pot holder to grab the handle. Surprisingly, this is easy to forget. And, very surprisingly, it’s easy to forget to do so repeatedly.
I thought the wine might be a bit overpowering for a meatless dish, but a generous amount of Pecorino provided a strength of savory flavor to stand up to the Assobio. Vegetarian cooking doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a bold wine with what’s on your plate!
Douro photo courtesy Rosino. Full disclosure: This wine was a free sample from a marketing company and I will be visiting this winery on a press trip in May.