Spaghetti with Zucchini, Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce, and Mozzarella
Back in my Parisian days, I signed up for a wine course at Le Cordon Bleu in an effort to improve my (nonexistent) wine knowledge. Given my love of wine, I had very high hopes for this fancy class, and I liked to picture myself artfully swirling glasses while rattling off impressive tasting notes at future vino-centric events. (For whatever reason, the f*cking Catalina Wine Mixer comes to mind.) I even entertained some light fantasies of eventually running my own vineyard like Brangelina. The possibilities!
However, my interest in oenology was quickly tempered when I realized that le programme involved a shocking amount of homework and weekly quizzes. Worried that such work would leave me with less time to actually drink wine and meet the Brad to my Angie, 23-year-old Serena said, “Non, merci!” and dropped out after the first class.
I have come to regret this rash decision, especially since wine has only become increasingly intimidating in my old age. Being in the “food and drink space,” I’m often surrounded by fellow wine enthusiasts that appear endlessly snobbish informed about appellations, vintages, growing techniques, and pairings. I find myself doing a lot of nervous nodding and smiling in conversation with such individuals, as contributions like, “I think this Chardonnay tastes like trees and butter in a bad way,” don’t necessarily help my professional rep.
I’ve been meaning to up my wine game with a class (or at least some light informational reading) for a while now, so you can imagine my excitement when Barton & Guestier reached out and asked if I’d like to spend an evening talking wine with Laurent Prada, B&G’s head winemaker, and Hubert Surville, COO of B&G USA. After sending my most casual, “A thousand times, yes!!!” response, I was invited to meet this dynamic duo at Artisinal Fromagerie & Bistro the next week for some wine tasting and education.
On the night of my hot date (just to be clear, this was a not a group event—it was just Laurent, Hubert, and ME), I felt surprisingly nervous. I’d done my due diligence, and Barton & Guestier is no joke. Founded in Bordeaux in 1725, B&G has been a trusted name in wine for almost three centuries, and it’s the first and only French brand that produces AOC and Varietal wines from not just one, but all of the great French wine growing regions. (In case you’re curious, those include Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone Valley, Languedoc, Provence and Gascony). On top of that, Laurent Prada is a well-known and respected badass in the wine world, having worked in Champagne with Veuve Clicquot, in the Languedoc with both Piat and the Compagnie des Salins du Midi, and in the Bordeaux area, where he managed estates in Margaux and Saint-Emilion.
Needless to say, this was all slightly intimidating to someone who still occasionally swills Two Buck Chuck and recently Googled the meaning of “AOC.” What if these guys were appalled by my pedestrian wine knowledge, insulted me in French, and laughed me right out of the restaurant? (You know I’m quick to jump to worst-case scenarios…)
Luckily, my fears were unfounded, as Hubert and Laurent turned out to be the most wonderfully charming, down-to-earth wine connoisseurs I’ve ever met. And the more I learned from them about wine and B&G, the clearer it became that their unpretentious attitudes were indicative of the brand’s overall vision: Give every wine lover in the world the opportunity to experience the great wines of France and to learn more about them.
That’s obviously a mission statement this wine-loving noob can get behind, and B&G is doing a bang up job of executing it. Laurent and his team work in partnership with 200 winegrowers, adhering to rigorous specifications and strict guidelines to ensure consistent quality and style. The wines are delicious (I know because I tasted seven different whites, reds, and rosés), and better still, they’re affordable. Most bottles will run you somewhere between 12 and 15 bucks. Hallelujah!
I was surprised by how much I liked all of the B&G wines I tasted (even the Merlot, which I usually avoid like the plague), but my two favorites were the Côtes de Provence Rosé and the Vouvray. Both wines are from the B&G Passeport line, which seeks to educate the consumer through easy to read labels and taste descriptors for the classic appellations. What I love most about these two light, well-balanced wines is that they’re a.) refreshing, and b.) super versatile. And by that I mean that they pair amazingly with almost any summer meal you can think of—salads, cheese, grilled meat and fish, and light pastas like this Spaghetti with Zucchini and Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce.
This pasta is delightful, and it’s one of my foolproof summer go-tos. The spaghetti is lightened up with zucchini noodles and tossed with a simple cherry tomato sauce and mozzarella pearls, and the result is kinda life-changing. (I haven’t used that word in a while, right?) So bright and fresh. Round it out with some grilled bread, a big green salad, and a chilled bottle of the aforementioned rosé or Vouvray and you’ve got quite the impressive summer feast on your hands.
FYI, it’s all doable in less than 30 minutes. Even if you’ve already gotten into ze wine…
A few quick notes before you get cooking/drinking. Because the cherry tomatoes in this recipe are raw, you want to use the highest quality tomatoes possible. If you can get your hands on farmers market tomatoes amazing, but if not, cherry-pick the clamshell with the brightest red/plumpest tomatoes at your supermarket. Also, the ratio of spaghetti to zucchini noodles in this recipe is about 3:1, but feel free to adjust it if you like. (I sometimes do equal parts pasta and zucchini and it’s great, just slightly less substantial.) And if you don’t have a spiralizer, you can always julienne your zucchini with a julienne peeler or your chef’s knife.
Cheers to a delicious and wine-filled long weekend, friends!
Spaghetti with Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Sauce: (Serves 4)
1 large (8- to 10-inch long) zucchini
¾ pound spaghetti (about ¾ of a standard box)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
For the Cherry Tomato Sauce:
3 cups cherry tomatoes
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and roughly chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preparing your Spaghetti with Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Sauce:
-Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
-Spiralize the zucchini using the blade on your spiralizer that makes spaghetti-like noodles. (If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t panic. You can julienne your zucchini using a julienne peeler or your chef’s knife. The latter will take you a while, but it’s doable.) Pat the zucchini noodles dry with paper towels, and briefly set them aside.
-Next, whip up the tomato sauce. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to the bowl of a food processor (or blender).
-Pulse a few times until the ingredients are incorporated and you have a chunky, rustic sauce. (Don’t over-process, people, you want texture!) Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a large mixing bowl.
-Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain.
-Immediately add the spaghetti to the bowl with the tomato sauce and toss to coat. Let the pasta rest for 2 minutes to absorb some of the sauce.
-During the last few minutes of the pasta’s cooking time, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the zucchini noodles. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes until just tender. (Be careful not to overcook them!!)
-Add the zucchini noodles to the bowl with the pasta and toss to combine. Add the mozzarella pearls and toss again.
-Serve this delicious summer spaghetti immediately. (Don’t worry if it’s not piping hot–this is also great warm or at room temp.) Garnish with a little fresh basil if you’re feeling fancy.
This post is brought to you by my new friends at Barton & Guestier, but all opinions are (very obviously) my own. Sponsored posts are few and far between around here, and I only endorse products and companies that I truly love. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep Domesticate ME! alive and kicking!
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