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Thursday, 28 January 2010


Not to be confused with a reality programme of almost the same name, I got the idea for wine-swapping whilst on holiday in Alsace a few years ago.

Thanks to the wonder (!) of modern technology, a colleague and I found ourselves emailing each other remotely via Blackberry when we should really have been enjoying our holidays. Realising we were both in wine regions of France (Alison was in Bordeaux), we agreed to buy each other a bottle of something local, bought directly from the producer, for a price limit of €10.

When we got back, we exchanged wines and I took ownership of a very nice red Bordeaux which accompanied a traditional roast beef dinner extremely well. My offering was an Alsace Riesling - two actually, as I had managed to get a couple of good examples for €5 each - which is very food friendly, but does not have too many traditional matches.

Alison asked for a recommendation of what she should drink it with and I thought of a couple of possibilities, but plumped for a simple and versatile pasta recipe.

Spaghetti with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket

I never weigh the ingredients for this recipe, except the pasta and all the amounts can be varied or adapted according to taste in any case.

Ingredients for 2 -4 people

Spaghetti or other flat pasta, allow around 50g - 75g dry weight per person

A handful of sun-dried tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), roughly cut up

A couple of spoons of pesto

A splash of olive oil

A handful of pine nuts, gently toasted

Some Parmesan shavings

A good handful of rocket or lamb's lettuce


Start by toasting the pine nuts very gently, turning constantly in a frying pan until golden brown - they burn very easily !

Cook the pasta using plenty of well-seasoned water in a heavy-bottomed pan until al dente, drain and return to the pan; splash on some olive oil, stir in a few spoons of pesto and throw in the tomatoes, pine nuts and rocket. Stir once more and leave for a minute or so until the rocket wilts.

Serve as either a starter or a side dish and garnish with Parmesan shavings (use a potato peeler and a block of good Parmesan).

If using as a side dish, you can serve this with any easily-prepared, boneless meat, such as good butcher's sausages or griddled chicken breast.

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