Wine-Stained Gemelli & Sausage Meatballs

Here's some simple cooking logic that will take you far in life: pasta cooks in liquid, wine is a liquid, therefore pasta can cook in wine. This is definitely not the time to break out that fancy, expensive bottle you've been carefully aging for years. Instead, dispense some wine out of the box right into the pot, or buy one of those cheapo magnums. This just may be the only exception to only cooking with what you'd drink. Use our Best Basic Tomato Sauce, or high-quality sauce from a jar, like Batali's.

Mario Batali recommends that instead of discarding the winy cooking liquid, remove the pasta with a spider or pasta fork and later reduce the liquid to 2 cups. Use it for making succulent stock-based sauces whenever a wine reduction is called for.

Wine-Stained Gemelli & Sausage Meatballs
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  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 1 cup plus 4 liters inexpensive red wine
  • 2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Using your hands, form the sausage into balls about the size of almonds.
  2. In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking. Add the sausage balls in two batches, and sauté, rolling them around, until they are browned all over, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Remove, and set aside on a plate.
  3. Add the eggplant cubes to the pan and cook until dark golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain off the fat, and add the 1 cup red wine to the eggplant.
  4. Bring to a boil, and then add the tomato sauce and the sausage balls. Bring to a boil again.
  5. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  6. Pour the 4 liters red wine into a large pasta pot. Add the salt and 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil.
  7. Drop the gemelli into the boiling wine/water, and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate.
  8. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking wine/water into the sausage mixture.
  9. Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sausage mixture. Add the parsley and toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated.
  10. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with the grated pecorino on the side.
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