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May 7, 2008

Vinegar in Pasta Sauce: Like a Leather Jacket for Your Penne


When one leafs through the mental note card holder for pasta sauce recipes, one does not often venture into the alphabetically arranged section for ingredients starting with the letter ‘V.’


We leave, for the time being, the question of why this is the case and instead recognize that it is.

But even if the trip is a rare one, then it is one that must occasionally be taken.


The list of foods that begin with V is a short one. You can already strike out an obvious one, vegetables, as hopelessly vague. So may you also strike out Vitamin C for reasons that are obvious.


The mind perhaps lingers a second over the word venison. It is true that game meat can be used to make a pasta sauce, but the simple truth is that venison is not our answer. And, while the mind might then linger a second over the words vanilla bean, as though some kind of dessert pasta is coming, it is with great sadness that this would be something perhaps for another day.


Think instead of the word vinegar. Although the rules of pronunciation have this as a three-syllable word, it is really made up of two separate words – vine and gar. The vine, as we know, creeps and stretches. The gar is a savage game fish. The two, combined and involving pasta, suggest a sauce that will creep into you slowly, but will strike with efficiency and ruthlessness. Hold on to your hat, we’re riding the balsamic bronco!


Begin by heating some sliced mushrooms, diced chicken and zucchini in heated olive oil. Toss in some minced garlic, and once heated all the way through, add enough balsamic vinegar, plus a splash or two of white cooking wine, to thoroughly coat all ingredients and to form a small pool in the bottom of the pan. This will be critical to coating the individual pasta noodles.


Add salt to taste, but add a very healthy dose of cracked black pepper. It will bring a zest to the table that complements nicely the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar.


The question of noodles here is easily answered. The vinegar will stain anything it touches a brownish color, which means you should use pasta that is aesthetically pleasing when stained brown. Sadly, this is not the case when using regular, workaday spaghetti or linguini. When stained brown, those look unappealing and somewhat inedible.


Penne, on the other hand, looks handsome when stained brown by vinegar, almost distinguished. It is like adding a jacket with leather patches to a man with a well-groomed moustache and beard. The one appears well kept, the other looks scholarly and wise. Spaghetti, in these regards, takes a step down – mussing the hair and turning the beard scraggly. The difference between penne and spaghetti in this case is the difference between a college professor and a transient yelling at traffic.


Once your noodles have cooked, it is time to stain them by mixing noodle and sauce.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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