Wine & Food Killers: Rigatoni with Carrot and Saffron Cream Sauce and Ovum Big Salt Orange Rosé

It feels fitting that Ovum Big Salt Orange Rosé’s colour is best described as “sunset”. After months of blaze and heat, we are undeniably at summer’s end, all that heat and light softening into cool shadow. I like the soft melancholy of this transitional time, the drought now followed by drizzle and thunder.

It helps that Big Salt Orange Rosé reminds me of the last beach trip of the season: saline, as the name suggests, and overripe, summer elegy on its nose. Its Alsatian makeup (by way of Oregon) – Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat — comes across all grapefruit and ginger, red apple and big, blowsy florals. Undefinable, somewhere between orange wine and rosé, a pastel-hued field blend, this wine is perfectly suited to this moody, changeable time.

In addition to fruits and flowers, I was intrigued to see “roasted carrot” as one of the tasting notes the winemakers offer for this wine. It was enough to inspire this pasta dish, itself designed for transitional eating. Years ago, I recalled making a simple golden-hued pasta sauce composed of yellow bell pepper cooked down and blended into cream; it was a visual double for cheese sauce, an easy and lovely surprise.

For something a touch more autumnal, I decided to borrow the idea but use carrots (and caramelised onions) in place of bell peppers, to layer in heat with chilli powder, then to gild it all with the best saffron I could find. For crunch, pumpkin seeds; for freshness, mint leaves. If you want to push it deeper into autumn, you can also add nutmeg, maybe sage instead of mint. But
for me, for now, I wanted something that still had one foot left in summer.

Rigatoni with Carrot and Saffron Sauce
Serves 4-6

30g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet/white onions, peeled and finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot chilli powder (or more, to taste)
300ml double cream
Pinch saffron threads
500g rigatoni
50g pumpkin seeds
Fresh mint leaves, to garnish
Parmigiano Reggiano, to garnish

1. First, start prepping the carrot sauce. Place a saucepan over medium heat, and add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the onions. Sweat for roughly 5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until it has lost its raw smell. Add the carrots and mix to coat in the oil and butter.

2. Turn the heat down to low and season with salt and pepper to taste, as well as the cayenne pepper or chilli powder. Cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions are caramelising and the carrots are very soft. Add the cream and mix through before removing from the heat.

3. Place the saffron threads in a ramekin or small bowl and pour over a scant 25ml of boiling water. Leave to infuse for a few minutes before adding both saffron and soaking water to the sauce. Using a stick blender, blend the sauce for several minutes, or until smoothly incorporated. (Don’t worry if the sauce is very thick; you’ll be adding pasta water soon.)

 4. Place a large pan of well-salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook the rigatoni according to package instructions until al dente. As the pasta cooks, add cooking water to the sauce, one ladle at a time, and blend using the stick blender, until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

 5. As the pasta cooks, toast your pumpkin seeds. Add to a small, dry frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, tossing frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until the pumpkin seeds are well toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

 6. When it is done cooking, drain the pasta, reserving some additional cooking water, and return it to the pot. Pour over the carrot sauce and add any reserved pasta water to thin it, if need be; mix through until the sauce looks glossy and coats the pasta.

 7. To serve, transfer the pasta to bowls or plates, and sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds. Grate over the Parmigiano Reggiano, and garnish with the mint leaves. Serve right away.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.