With all my marathon training goes the pre-run carb loading. I’ve been having the same meal the night before each long run, but I’m starting to get bored. I needed a little pasta inspiration – something exciting I could try with completely different flavours. Time to look for a new pre-run pasta meal.
With Google is my friend, I started my search with something that looked tasty and stumbled across this Creamy, Garlic Pasta with Asparagus and Peas from What’s Eating Her. As one of the ingredients was white wine, it seemed only right that would try and pair this with the same white wine – after all, I don’t want the rest of the bottle to go to waste. After a few moments thinking about the range of alcohol-free white wines, I chose the Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling.
Recipe: Creamy, Garlic Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
Normally I choose a tomato-based sauce to go with my pasta, but I thought I’d be a little more adventurous this time and go for a white sauce. After looking through a number of recipes, I found this and knew it was perfect for me. It had two key ingredients to make it a success in our house – peas to keep the kids happy and asparagus to keep the grown-ups happy. The perfect win/win situations.
Another reason I chose the recipe was it used white wine is one of the ingredients. I’ve never tried cooking with alcohol-free wine before and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go. Would the recipe be affected by the lack of alcohol? I was intrigued to find out, especially as the alcohol is normally cooked off.
Preparation: Be Prepared
Learning from my previous experiences doing these blogs, I decided to prepare for ingredients one in advance of cooking. This was definitely worth doing as once everything got going, the whole meal was done in the time it took to cook the pasta. If I’d have tried preparing and cooking at the same time, I’m sure I’d have ended up with a very disappointing mess.
Once I started cooking, I found a problem with the recipe – all the timings were very vague leaving a large element of guesswork on when to add ingredients to the pan. I know there needs to be some flexibility when cooking as some ingredients don’t take exact times to cook, but having nothing to guide me made this difficult and a little less relaxing.
In the end. I used the pasta cooking time as a guide. The packet said 10 minutes to cook, so I made sure I had everything else ready for when the pasta was done. This made me naturally keep moving at a pace that added a new ingredient every minute or two (good job I prepared in advance!). Whilst this worked for my first time attempt, I would definitely make some adjustments in the future.
One mistake I did make was turning my back to lay the table while the wine reduced. I underestimated just how quickly that would happen and I got worrying close to burning everything. Luckily, I noticed just in time and added in some more wine. Being alcohol-free, I didn’t have to wait again for the alcohol to boil off – a hidden benefit of choosing an alcohol free wine to cook with.
Meal: Final Flourish Adds to Excellence
One of the great things of cooking a meal that uses parsley, is holding back a little to use as a garnish. It always makes me feel like a professional adding that little flourish at the end. That may be a little childish, but it makes me smile as I serve the dish. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to use it as a distraction when things haven’t gone well.
On this occasion the garnish was there as a nice finishing touch rather than a diversion. The sauce was richly flavoured with the hints of garlic and wine both coming. The Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling is a slightly sweet wine and this came through in the sauce with a subtle sweet edge I hadn’t expected, but was surprisingly nice.
The pasta was certainly popular with my kids, but it was the asparagus that put smile on my face adding a sharpness to the creaminess of the sauce. The only thing I would do differently next time, is add the asparagus later in the recipe to ensure it keeps its crunch. However, that does feel like just nit picking at was a very enjoyable meal.
Alcohol-Free Drink: Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling
I have to admit that I do tend just to drink more of the alcohol-free beers than the alcohol-free wines, but that’s purely because I’ve always been more of a beer drinker. I put this down to my days of working at a brewery as a student. Trying this recipe gave me an opportunity to enjoy a class of wine with my meal and I’m glad I did. The Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling was crisp and refreshing and rounded off this meal perfectly.
The wines aromas were mainly of musky spices, but underneath there is a subtle hint of sweetness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That sweetness is reflected in the flavours as the wine has an initial sharpness and acidity of the Riesling that’s almost citrusy followed by a subtle sweetness. Taking a moment to enjoy the wine, it’s easy to appreciate the complexities in the flavours, although my unpractised palate struggles to identify some of the subtler flavours hidden in the wine.
Overall, I really enjoyed this wine. It reminded me that I really need to get out of my beer-comfort-zone more often and explore the wonderful flavours a great wine has to offer.
I’m not sure if it was because the wine was in the sauce or because wine just generally goes better with a creamy pasta sauce, but this was a meal and drink pairing that really worked. The lightness of the wine was a wonderful counterbalance to the heaviness of the pasta, whilst the creamy sauce contained a variety of complimentary flavours.
Buy Your Alcohol-Free Wine
If you’re looking to try this yourself, you can grab your Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling from Wise Bartender today. Or maybe you want to try a different white wine in this creamy sauce? There’s a wide variety of alcohol free wines on offer.
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As with any meal I cook for the first time, there were a number of things I’ll do differently for next time in the hope of making a good meal great.
All of these are minor changes and should combine to make a big difference:
- Definitely prepare in advance – the fast pace of cooking make prepping and cooking at the same time impossible. There’s only a few ingredients, so it’s worth taking that little bit of additional time to get them ready first.
- Don’t overcook the asparagus – I added mine too soon and the asparagus liost it’s crunch. I think it’d be better to risk undercooking the asparagus next time so it adds some texture rather than overcooking which can risk the asparagus getting lost in with the pasta.
- Keep an eye on the wine – it reduces down much faster than expected.
- Chop the onions small – this isn’t a lesson learned as such as I followed the recipe (for once!), this is more of a recommendation. Having the onions super small added flavour without spoiling the sauce so it’s definitely worth doing.
I’m always a fan of anything that has one pan and is super quick to cook which probably makes me massively biased towards these types of recipes. Added to that, this meal was both simple, easy, fast and super tasty so it definitely gets a big thumbs up from me.
My initial concerns over the lack of timings added to the recipe proved to be unnecessary. With a quick pace about ingredients serving everything through, that really was no need to worry. Everything happened quite naturally once I got going, although a few little tweaks will be made next time so I get crunchy asparagus.
The Very Cautious One Gewürztraminer Riesling was a very noticeable flavour in the pasta sauce. It’s different from other sources are cooked using alcoholic white wine, but I think that’s more because I would normally have a drier wine in house. This did give the sauce a slightly sweeter edge, but it didn’t detract the flavours. In fact I thought it added something a bit different that I enjoyed and I’ll use it when I cook this again.
I initially picked this pairing as I needed a wine for the sauce, but I’m very glad I made this fortuitous decision. These meal was fun to cook, tasted incredible and the wine was delicious, making the two a perfect pairing.