Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
A few weeks ago, Wine Spectator contributing editor Matt Kramer wrote a column titled Has Pinot Noir Peaked?" He commented, "No grape variety in recent years has experienced so meteoric a rise." He suggested an alternative yet similar wine to pursue—Gamay—arguing that Pinot has reached market saturation and cannot grow any bigger.
Kramer's musings got me thinking: What is the equivalent in the food world? What food has invaded the restaurants, kitchens, Instagram feeds and imaginations of American eaters? Of all the current food trends, which has experienced a rise comparable to Pinot? All signs pointed to one dish: avocado toast.
For those unfamiliar, avocado toast is exactly what it sounds like. Take a slice of toasted bread and slather it with mashed avocado. It has gone from an obscure, somewhat healthy breakfast offering to a mainstay on countless restaurant menus. It's now topped with everything from poached eggs to prosciutto to pomegranate seeds.
However much I enjoy the savory treat, I cannot imagine it evolving much further. Still, I love ripe, bright green avocados and wanted to find other creative ways to enjoy them. I decided to switch out the bread for another comforting base for the creamy topping: pasta.
I whipped up a simple, pesto-inspired sauce with avocado, fresh basil, lime juice and garlic. A touch of thick Greek yogurt amped up the richness, and a splash of olive oil rounded out the flavors.
The sauce, bursting with these bright, summery elements, begged to be paired with some seasonal vegetables. I found beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes that added a bolt of acidity and a splash of oranges, reds and yellows to my avocado pesto–coated linguine. I also added some fresh kernels of juicy summer corn for sweetness and texture.
To pair with the dish, I wanted a wine to mirror the sun-drenched brightness of the pasta. I chose three white wines: a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a smooth Chardonnay and a creamy Vermentino.
Sauvignon Blanc is typically a good match for herbal, green flavors—like the basil in the sauce. But this particular wine, from South Africa, was a bit too sharp and crisp for the velvety pasta.
After one sip of the Chardonnay, I immediately knew it had too much oak to match with the clean, bright flavors. My suspicions were confirmed as the wine overwhelmed the nuances of the sauce, tomatoes and corn. An unoaked version would have fared better.
My last option, a Vermentino from Sardinia, had both the flavors and textures I was seeking. It rolled across my palate with a smooth creaminess, yet the light acidity was enough to elevate the rich avocado sauce.
Avocado Basil Pasta with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Summer Corn
Try it with a creamy Italian white such as Cantina Mesa Vermentino di Sardegna Primo 2014 (87 points, $20).
Total time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Approximate food costs: $15
- 1 avocado
- 3/4 cup basil leaves, with a few leaves reserved for garnish
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces linguine
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 ear corn
1. In a large pot, bring 4 to 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving some pasta water in a container.
2. While the pasta is cooking, add avocado, basil, lime juice, garlic, Greek yogurt and olive oil to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems too thick, add a small amount of the pasta water. Refrigerate the sauce to keep it fresh until it's ready to be served.
3. Cook the ear of corn and as soon as it's cool enough to handle, carefully remove kernels with a knife.
4. In a large bowl, combine pasta, avocado sauce, corn kernels and halved cherry tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil. Serves 2.