Peppery Red Wine Capellini – Cooked By The Absorption Method – Recipe

Peppery pasta cooked by the absorption method
Peppery pasta cooked by the absorption method

Cooking pasta by the absorption method instead of boiling in a gallon of salted water may seem fearful to those of us that grew up with noodle orthodoxy, but it actually works great and can be a big time saver. You don't have to wait for water to boil, and you don't necessarily have two pots to clean at the end, if you design your sauce and condiment to be built in with the pasta.

For this recipe, I toast the capellini in the oven first. This is characteristic of how they are handled in Spain, Mexico (where they are called fideos) and the Middle East. I enjoy the additional browned flavors. You can do this while prepping and sauteeing your vegetables.

The flavor of this dish is quite assertive, with substantial quantities of red wine, black pepper, smoked paprika and garlic. It isn't one I would necessarily recommend for young children or those who prefer milder tastes.

Because we are cooking tomatoes and zucchini along with the noodles, I'm calling for less initial liquid than you will see in most absorption cooked pasta recipes. Instead, we'll have you check along the way and add more as needed. Also note that we reserve some of the tomatoes for garnish. I love to include an ingredient both fresh and raw in the same dish so we get to experience the full range of its flavors.

Peppery Red Wine Capellini
Vegetarian and vegan
Serves 4 as a main course

  • 1 pound capellini (angel hair) noodles
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 pounds zucchini, 1/2" dice
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2" lengths
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved, divided
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • salt
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine (I used a tempranillo)
  • lots of minced fresh parsley for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Break the capellini into approximately 3" lengths. Toast on a baking sheet tossing occasionally with tongs, for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot with a lid (at least 5.5 quarts), heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Cook the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes, allowing them only to soften and grow aromatic, but not burn. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini and another pinch of salt. Saute, browning until the noodles have come out of the oven.
  3. Add the noodles on top of the zucchini mixture. Put the asparagus, two-thirds of the cherry tomatoes on top of that and sprinkle in the smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano and rosemary. Pour the red wine and 1 1/4 cups of water over the top. Toss as best you can with tongs, but it will be hard at first because the noodles are stiff. Return the heat to medium and cover.
  4. Every 3 minutes, remove the top and toss. The total cooking time will probably be about 8-12 minutes. Towards the end, taste a noodle each time you remove the top to see if it is done. If not, and there isn't any moisture left on the bottom, add a bit more wine or water (maybe 1/3 cup).
  5. When the noodles are done to your liking, make any final adjustments to the seasoning and transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with the remaining uncooked cherry tomatoes and parsley, and another grind of fresh black pepper.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 in Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

17 Responses to “Peppery Red Wine Capellini – Cooked By The Absorption Method – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    This looks lovely, especially as we are just starting to get some baby ‘courgettes’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) coming through and soon we will be innundated with them. Thank you for this recipe.

  2. Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    Great blog!

    Thanks for sharing so many yummy vegan recipes.

  3. Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    I love pasta dishes with wine in them. Looks great!

  4. Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Love you angel hair!!!

  5. Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Ages ago, I accidently bought capellini, which I’m not normally a fan of. It has been sitting in my pantry and I’ve been at a loss for what to do with it. Finally a solution! Especially with all the lovely summer produce I’ve been seeing. Thanks!

  6. Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    This looks fantastic. I loved that you used Tempranillo for the wine!

  7. Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    This dish looks beautiful and delicious. I love to cook by the absorption method. It saves me a great deal of time…and who couldn’t use more of that, right?

    Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

  8. Reply
    June 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    Wow, loved the Absorption method:) The more you read it, the more it makes sense:) the pasta looks delicious, btw!:)

    I’m hosting Presto pasta Nights this week on my blog. It’d be great if you could participate by sending in this lovely recipe!:)

  9. Reply
    June 26, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    That is such a ridiculously good idea! I’ve actually never heard of it and that just shows how back woods I am. Shoot.

  10. Reply
    June 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    Oh, I need you to open a restaurant! This is the sort of thing I would love to be able to order out on the town… but thank you so much for sharing so I can cook it at home for now.

  11. Reply
    March 29, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    Turned out great, I wish I could send the awesome photo I took.

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Hey prophead – glad to hear you liked it; you can't post the photo atย ย link to, I'd love to see it

  13. Reply
    September 21, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Thanks for linking to this.. I had never heard of it before! Could this be done without breaking the Capellini? Snapping long pasta is practically against the law in Italy – there is probably an authority to check for that too.

    Does the red wine evaporate some or does it still taste a bit like it would in a glass?



  14. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    September 21, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Since this one is fideos-style, snapping the noodles is appropriate, but if you were doing it for an Italian dish I don’t see why it wouldn’t work without breaking them, you just would need to use a large enough pot. The same approach works with shaped instead of long pasta, too. The harsh alcohol bite tends to evaporate leaving more of the fruit/acid/tannin of the wine, which is delicious.

  15. Reply
    Chris Kimm
    February 24, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    Michael, I tried substituting a gluten free spaghetti (I selected for the thinnest I could find in the hope it would be ‘like’ angel hair (my chosen pasta was by Bionature and was an organic rice, soy and potato combination). Unfortunately what we wound up with was very gummy. I wonder if the GF pasta is not well suited to this technique, if I didn’t execute properly somehow (it reminded me of boiling pasta in too little water and the starchy outcome that can result), or if anyone has experience with a different GF pasta and better results in absorption cooking? My wife suggested we try the dangmyeon sweet potato noodles used for Jap Chae.

    So many of your recipes are already gluten free or easily modified to be gluten free, which we very much appreciate, we thought we could just make an easy substitution. Alas, not on try one.

    On the other hand we have had great success over the past few weeks with your Tteokbokki, Chickpea and Saffron Pilaf, and Brussels Sprouts and Apple Hash. All will make regular appearances on our table going forward.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      Yeah, I wouldn’t expect this to work very well with GF pasta, gummy makes sense to me. I’m glad to hear those other dishes were a hit!

  16. Reply
    May 31, 2016 at 12:04 am #

    Interesting – I also have heard about an absorption method for cooking spaghetti, but mine is different still – link to
    Thanks for the recipe! I will definetly try ๐Ÿ™‚ And, yes, cooking spaghetti takes just too much time – absorption is better ๐Ÿ˜‰

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