Recipe Review

I Tried Dirty Martini Pasta and It’s a Simple-yet-Satisfying Spin on the Classic Drink

published Apr 17, 2023
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Dirty Martini pasta in a bowl with a fork on the side.
Credit: Lena Abraham

It seems like lately one of the most classic cocktails ever — the dirty martini — is trendy again. Maybe it’s the alcohol content, the promise of olives to snack on, or how you look oh-so-chic holding the iconic glass, with its frosty contents sloshing dangerously close to the edge.

Whatever the reason, this uptick in popularity is inspiring some pretty creative mash-ups. Of all the variations, chef Emily Egger’s (@legallyhealthyblonde) dirty martini pasta captivated me most. And as a martini-lover, I needed to know if a sauce made mostly with gin and olives would be as delicious as Eggers promised. 

Get the recipe: Dirty Martini Pasta

How to Make Dirty Martini Pasta

To start, put a pot of salted water on to boil for your pasta. This sauce comes together quickly, so it’s possible to prepare it in time to transfer the just-cooked pasta with tongs directly to the pan. Have your dry pasta nearby to be popped in when the water begins to boil. I went with bucatini, one of my favorites for butter-based sauces.

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add some chopped garlic, sautéing until it’s fragrant and just beginning to turn golden at the edges, about one minute. Next, add smashed and roughly chopped Castelvetrano olives and lemon zest. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the olives and lemon zest have darkened slightly and lost some of their moisture, two minutes more. 

Deglaze the pan with gin (or vodka), then add olive brine and butter. Stir in the butter so that it melts and creates an emulsified sauce, then season with salt and pepper.

Credit: Lena Abraham

If you’re still waiting on your pasta, you can remove the sauce from heat to pause the cooking process. Otherwise, you can transfer your cooked pasta directly into the pan and stir vigorously to coat the pasta in the sauce. Stir in an extra splash of olive brine to taste. If your sauce is too thin, spoon in some pasta water a few tablespoons at a time, stir it in well, and repeat as necessary. The resulting sauce will be thin, but each noodle should have a light coating.

Serve this pasta garnished with more lemon zest, a hefty sprinkling of crumbled blue cheese, and some chopped parsley.

My Honest Review of Dirty Martini Pasta

Much like a good dirty martini or a fresh oyster on the half shell, this pasta had a simple but satisfying saltiness that kept me coming back — bite after bite. Admittedly, I did throw in some extra chopped olives for texture and flavor, but all in all, I found this pasta to be very delicious. Although I expected the blue cheese to be overpowering, it actually melded well with the flavors of the olives and lemon zest, resulting in a deep savoriness and slight funk that complemented the delicate sauce. 

While I used gin, I couldn’t detect any of its botanical flavors in this dish. I think you could get away with omitting the alcohol completely and using only olive brine for the sauce (but is it really a martini pasta without the booze?).

Credit: Lena Abraham

3 Tips for Making Dirty Martini Pasta

  1. Add your butter cold. Cold butter melts more slowly, meaning it integrates better into the other ingredients for the sauce to form a creamier, more stable emulsion.
  2. Save your pasta water. Although not called for in the recipe, I found the starchy pasta water crucial for bulking up the relatively small amount of sauce. Add it over heat and toss your pasta well after each addition, until each noodle is coated in sauce.
  3. Be generous with the add-ins. As written, this pasta is pretty light on the mix-ins. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, bump up the chopped olives or supplement them with other briny ingredients like capers. Add some crunch with toasted breadcrumbs or chopped toasted nuts, and don’t skimp on the blue cheese.

Get the recipe: Dirty Martini Pasta