In Italy fusilli generally refers to long, hollow screws of pasta that resemble long corkscrews. Rotini, on the other hand, are the short, fluted twists. Designed to hold loose dry sauces, think pesto in particular, they’ve become one of the more common and popular forms of pasta over the past decade or two.
I’ve always enjoyed fusilli with some simple toppings, more than sauces. Their flutes hold and grab onto things like flakes of fried tuna or slivers of sundried tomatoes better than just about any other pasta, and when it comes to Parmiggiano, they are like a black hole, scooping up as much cheese as your tiring arms can grate!
So let’s take a look at fusilli today. Or rotini. No matter the name, it’s a great pasta to add to your repertoire!
Fusilli with Parsley, Walnut, and Black Olive Pesto
Let’s kick things off with an updated version of classic pesto. When we think of pesto we tend to think of basil and pine nuts, but until recently pesto simply referred to a herb and nut paste which would have been made with whatever was locally available. It’s a peasant’s sauce and one that works perfectly with rotini, those flutes catching all the mashed little bits of herb and nuts loosely bound together with fresh goat cheese in this case.
This version is light and pure, relying on the burst of freshness supplied by the parsley and grounded in the rich flavours of walnuts and black olives.
There are a couple of directions one could take when pairing wines with this recipe. The chevre and parsely seem made for sauvignon blanc, while the walnuts and black olives could call for something richer, and possibly red. I’m going to opt for a richer blend based on sauvignon blanc to work well here. Something barrel-aged to pair with the tannins from the walnuts and blended with semillon for more depth of flavour. Consider a white Bordeaux blend, wines that are so often over-looked but offer the flavour profile and richness we’re looking for here.
Rotini with Spiced Tomato & Black Olive Meat Sauce
Since I like working on themes with these pasta compendiums, let’s continue down the black olive road with this simple meat sauce enriched with black olives. I like calamata olives, particularly in a pesto-style preparation, but I find that they tend to be very assertive when quartered and added to a recipe like this one. Their tangy, explosive flavours tend to dominate the dish and I would prefer the subtle influence Moroccan cured olives would add if they were minced and blended in here.
This recipe should cook for a bit longer, helping to break down the meat while infusing it with a deeper flavour, particularly important when using something like oil-cured olives. With deeper flavours, this dish gains a subtle richness that would work perfectly with some of the wild flavours of Provencal reds, particularly those with a nice hit of gamy mourvedre adding its signature leathery and black fruited notes.
Fusilli with Summer Tomato Sauce
If we’re going to be discussing tomato-based sauces, then you have to also stick with the plain and simple original. Simple, chunky, lightly cooked tomatoes and basil make for a classic sauce. When you’re making this to serve with fusilli, dice your tomatoes a bit finer than usual, or run them through a tomato mill. That will give you ragged little bits of tomato that will stick to the rotini’s cracks and give you a burst of that fresh tomato flavour with every bite! Of course you could also use canned tomatoes here and enjoy this dish year round.
Simple tomato-based sauces love simple red wines. Sangiovese and barbera are classic partners for this style of red sauce but we don’t have to limit ourselves to Italians here. Do we? I love that this dish is true to its Italian roots, using garlic but no onion, which would make for a much sweeter sauce. Consider pairing this dish with a simple tempranillo. Well-equipped with enough fruity flavours and acids to pair well with the tomatoes, it gives you that Mediterranean feel of Italian wine while letting you broaden your horizons.
Quick Skillet Mac and Cheese
If you’re making “Mac and Cheese”, there is no better pasta than rotini. The spirals interlock with each other scooping up copious amounts of cheesy goodness and you can easily get masses of the pasta on your fork. No more stabbing around for the stray elbow macaroni that this dish is commonly prepared with. Just effortless delciosity!
You don’t always have enough time to do the full maccy, so this quick skillet version can come in handy. It’s also a great dish to help bulk out a meal with many guests.
Thick and rich with flavours that recall fondue, you’ll need a wine with richness and powerful acids to work well here. This is actually a challenging pairing, but considering it’s a quick, if rich take on mac and cheese, we should probably go for something not too expensive. Pinot blanc would be a wonderful choice. With its marriage of bright fruit, creamy richness and fine supporting acids it would be a very nice foil for this version of mac and cheese.
Mac and Cheese with Jalapeño and Scallions
Since we are on the subject of mac and cheese, let’s find one that works perfectly with rotini. Of course the cheese gets caught in rotini’s little wings, but if you add slivers of jalapeno, even better if it’s roasted jalapeno, and shaved scallions, they’re sure to get caught up there as well. It’s the perfect style of dish for rotini, and who among us can resist its charms?
This is a great recipe. Mac and Cheese all grown up, yet zesty and playful! If I hadn’t already gone to tempranillo with a previous recipe, I might be tempted to do so here. You’ll want a wine with modest tannins and plenty of fruit to pair with something that has the kick of jalapenos to it. A little vegetal edge wouldn’t hurt either. This would be an interesting pairing with carmenere, but I’m going to finally return to Italy for this one. Dolcetto all the way folks, or something similar.
FYI, dolcetto produces soft-styled, fruity wines with colours varying from deep ruby to purple. They are characterized particularly by their low acidity, which is the source of the variety’s name. Dolcetto means “little sweet one”.
So we’re looking for a zesty light and fresh wine with enough acid to cut through the cheesy richness and with pure, fresh sapid fruit that will work with the jalapeno as opposed to exacerbating its effect.