Revised Aperol Spritz

On a recent Friday night, I was feeling ahead of the game. Somehow, while making dinner the night before, I'd also managed to put together a batch of beef and pork meatballs, and poached them gently at 250 degrees in tomato sauce. In theory, all I had to do was cook the pasta, and dinner would be ready in less than 15 minutes. 

The thing was that the tomato sauce had thinned out quite a bit while cooking the meatballs, and I didn't have any more to use on the pasta. I decided to try cooking our fresh pasta right in the watery sauce, to see if it would drink up the liquid, turn a delicious red, and make up for the lack of sauce. But, while the pasta did turn a delicious-looking red, it never really cooked in the sauce, turning into a gummy, mushy, inedible mess instead. 

I was pissed. Normally, I like to think that I can adapt to my mistakes in the kitchen. I used to get upset about kitchen mishaps, but not much anymore. This time though, after a full day of work, with no more tomato sauce, only half a bag of pasta in the fridge, and a hungry boyfriend, it felt like there wasn't anything else that I could do to fix this dinner. And why had I decided to suddenly change the way the pasta was cooked anyway? Hadn't I lived in Italy? Didn't I know how people cooked pasta?  

I stormed out the door to go to our neighborhood Vons for more tomato sauce, but not before having a near complete meltdown. Ryan sprung into action, starting a pot of boiling water for the other pasta (at least he knew how to cook pasta), and turning the meatballs down so they didn't overcook after all that careful poaching the previous night. During the short drive to Vons, I fumed about my own annoyingly experimental nature. 

Once at Vons, I found my favorite Rao's tomato sauce. On my brisk walk to the checkout, I started to slow down near the alcohol section, remembering that I'd been thinking of picking up some grenadine for a favorite beer drink from France that I'd been craving. I walked up and down the aisles, my anger taking the back burner as I contemplated the bottles of wine and cheap mixers. They were all out of grenadine but I came upon a bottle of Aperol, one of my favorite Italian spirits and an unusual find in a college town Vons. So I grabbed it, along with a bottle of white wine and prosecco. I'd decided I needed a cocktail before I could approach dinner again. 

When I walked back into our apartment twenty minutes later, I had a repentant look on my face and I was carrying a wine holder filled with three large bottles. Ryan laughed. I laughed. My grouchiness dissipated a little. Ryan had cooked the pasta while I was gone; we added the tomato sauce and meatballs and it didn't matter one bit that I'd messed up the first batch. 

By the way, this is a revised Aperol spritz because I've discovered that the true spritz isn't the version I came to love during my time in Italy. While there, a friend had taken me to get a cocktail in Florence during that magical hour Italians call the aperitivo, when bars put out free snacks and people have a drink together before dinner. It was he that introduced me to this version of the spritz, with white wine instead of seltzer water, along with the standard aperol and prosecco. I fell in love with it all: the drink's perfect rosy color, the spread of prosciutto, whole olives, and potato chips, the Florentine sunset, the groups of Italians in heels and dress shirts.

But it turns out it wasn't just the magic of the moment. Italians drink spirits like Aperol and Campari because their subtle bitterness is thought to wet the appetite. Aperitivo drinks are almost always something light, possibly fizzy, citrusy and/or slightly bitter. In general, something like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned would be considered too strong. All this is to say that this Aperol Spritz makes a great summer pre-dinner drink. Because it's sweet and slightly bitter, it's not great paired with dinner, but goes better alongside some snacks.

Revised Aperol Spritz

Ingredients:

  • 1 part dry white wine like pinot grigio (don't use chardonnay or anything sweet)
  • 2 parts aperol 
  • 2-3 parts prosecco (to your taste, I like 2 parts)
  • One orange, cut in half and sliced into half moons

Instructions:

  1. Mix the white wine and aperol in a large wine glass, stemless wine glass, or collins glass. 
  2. Add plenty of ice cubes, leaving space to top with the prosecco.
  3. Top each glass with the prosecco and stir gently. 
  4. Twist the orange slice and add it into the glass.