Over the holidays, we had lots of elaborate meals. Christmas dinner, for us, was lobster with drawn butter, with which we paired the 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, my pick for the best white wine we've ever made. The pairing was great, and the lobsters delicious.
But one holiday meal has stuck with me more than any other. And it wasn't by any stretch the most elaborate. It was the last meal we shared before all the various family members decamped back to their homes and real life resumed, and for that meal we chose a pasta puttanesca with wide pappardelle noodles from the cookbook Geometry of Pasta by Jacob Kennedy that my brother-in-law Tom received for Christmas. We served the dinner for a dozen, ranged in age from one to eighty-three. Everyone finished what they had and scraped the serving bowl clean for seconds.
Pasta puttanesca (literally "whore's pasta") originated in Naples, and has the benefit of being beautiful as well as delicious. The red of tomatoes, the black of olives, the yellow of fresh pasta noodles and the green of capers, parsley and basil make for a colorful presentation. Thanks to my sister Rebecca for taking and sharing the photos:
We paired the pasta with our 2008 Mourvedre, not because we had any great expectations for the synergy, but because it's a wine that's in a very friendly place right now, and we had some at the house. The match was a revelation, with the sweet-but-earthy character of the Mourvedre reflecting similar flavors in the pasta. What's more, the pasta brought out a beautiful mineral note in the Mourvedre. We finished three bottles and had to move on to a Syrah (not Tablas Creek) we happened to have to hand. The Syrah paired much less well, with its overt oak tasting dried out and hard compared to the Mourvedre's elegance.
A few other photos of the pasta's preparation, the noodles on the left and the mixing on the right:
The last photo is another I loved, with a closeup of the jar of capers that was used for the puttanesca. And yes, Rebecca got a new camera for Christmas; if you like these photos, you should check out her blog Campestral.