Another excellent Barbera from the Piedmont. Just as a little background, Barbera D’asti is an Italian (you may have guessed that already) red wine made from the Barbera grape and produced in the northern provinces of Asti and Alexandria.
Damilano is a truly old school wine producer, with great respect for tradition and history. It is a family owned winery with its roots going back to the 1890’s when Giuseppe Borgogno, the great-grandfather of the current owners began growing his grapes on the family owned vineyard in Barolo in the Langhe area, which has become almost synonymous with Barbera wines. In America, as we have been led to recognize Budweiser as “The king of beers,” Barbera is a product of this beautiful and natural land where wine grapes are most revered, and they have produced what is recognized as “The king of wines” for centuries.
The Barbera grape can be traced back to the thirteenth century with origins seemingly in the hills of Monferrato in the Piedmont. It was accredited as DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in 1970, and later upgraded to DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Each of these prestigious designations requires adherence to very strict rules and regulations, such as a guarantee of high quality and production within a specific region. The more DOCG designation even requires an analysis and a taste test to assure all standards are met. The first of these rules is that Barbera wine is made from at least 90% of the Barbera grape with the balance containing only Freisa, Grignolino or Dolcetto grapes. The wine must be made before March 1, with an alcohol content of at least 11.5%. There is absolutely no room here for error, no deviation or substitution as these rules are very strictly enforced, and have been since their inception.
So when Giacomo Damilano, the son-in-law of Giuseppe, took over the winery and gave it his name, he was faced with the very daunting task of innovating and modernizing the winery and its production, while maintaining the quality and upholding the tradition. His Barbera D’Asti was introduced in 2008 with a new challenge. A rental agreement between him and an 11 hectare vineyard in Casorzo in the province of Asti was struck. The vineyard, an area where the grapes have been grown since the 1800’s contains a white marl soil giving the wine a sort of ancient character. Damilano Barbera D’asti is a deep, ruby red color with an aroma of fruits such as cherries, currants and violets with a very slight essence of vanilla. It is aged in stainless steel tanks within a cement cellar to ensure temperature stability.
I found this wine to be a little lighter than other wines from the region. It is drinking very well now, and as with most reds, it will benefit from about two hours in a good, quality decanter. As a prelude to dinner, pour it slowly to get the full effect of its color and bouquet and the process will continue in the glass. This is a sipping wine to be sure. I will pair very well with beef and pork as well as wild game. We recently enjoyed it with our Sunday dinner of homemade pasta, sausages and a well-stuffed braciole.
With an average price of just under $20, this wine is an excellent value. The time spent in the decanter will soften it a bit, as well as introduce anticipation, as it is quite beautiful in the proper light, very aromatic and does sport a rather attractive bottle. But, on any level, this is an easy wine to enjoy as it pleases each sense individually. And if you choose to brag a bit, just mention that it did receive an impressive 90 point rating from both Wine Enthusiast Magazine and James Suckling.
Tenute Cisa Asinari Dei Marchesi di Gresy is an estate in Northern Italy which includes four properties located in Monferrato and Langhe, in the Piedmont Region, which also happens to be the home of some of the finest wines in the area, if not the world. But this particular estate has more than a history. It has been owned and operated by the di Gresy family since 1797, a history from which we Americans could learn a few things. Up until the 1960’s it was operated like a traditional farm producing vegetables, livestock and fruits, including grapes. These grapes were of the finest quality and were sold to the various wine producers in the area, as was the tradition in the province. It was in the early 1970’s that Alberto di Gresy decided to take the bold move to produce his own wines. His first vintage came out in 1973. But Alberto did not want to be just another wine merchant or producer, and to that end he called upon his years of farming expertise with a nod to both tradition and modern technology to produce what has become one of the finest wines in this very competitive region.
In 2013 Alberto’s children, Alessandro and Ludovica began their careers and beside their father expanded their estate to 111 acres of a grape paradise among the Martinenga, Monte Aribaldo, La Serra and Monte Colombo Estates. To this day only grapes grown on the estate are used in their wines. This particular wine gets its start in the La Serra vineyard in the municipality of Cassine, in the province of Alessandria. There, with a mostly southern exposure the grapes are exposed to cooling mountain breezes, long summers ample rainfall and higher humidity making for a plump, juicy grape. Using a process called malolactic fermentation, a process which reduces the acidity and converts the strong, tarl malic acid into softer, creamier lactic acid (the type found in milk), the wine is fermented and aged in oak barrels for at least four months. Even here the process is unique and the attention to detail is utmost. Most of the barrels used are classed as “second or third barriques,” meaning that they have only been used once or twice before. The wine can then be transferred for a time to Slavonian oak barrels, which are larger with a very tight grain and a smooth, sweet aroma. This type of aging is not uncommon in this area. Aging in the bottle usually involves only shipping and storage just before sale.
This is a full-bodied, intense red wine, with wonderful flavor and a welcoming aroma. Like most reds it will benefit from some time in a quality decanter, but actually, very little time is needed. Hints of blackberry, raspberry and dark cherry will emanate from the bottle and call you home. On the palate the taste will linger long after the first sip, and long after the last drop in the glass. You can easily taste the attention to detail, the bow to tradition and the expertise needed to produce this very fine wine. At the risk of repeating myself too often, this is a wine that Alberto envisioned he would be able to produce, and his children would continue. This is truly a place where pride still matters. Produced with 100% locally grown Barbera grapes and an alcohol content of 13.5%, in this price range, about $20, it is an excellent choice.
Pairing this wine with food is pretty simple as it will go well with stronger tasting meats such as a beef ragout, stews or grilled beef, as well as fresh aromatic cheeses like a parmigiano reggiano. But don’t hesitate to serve this before dinner to your guests. It will go well with a meal, but will perform just as well with good conversation and pleasant company.
The Valpolicella Region of Italy is located in the northern province of Verona, just east of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. While the region has been made famous in history and theater as the home of Romeo and Juliet and also the home of Two Gentlemen from there, the region is also known as a premier producer of quality, varied wines.
It is thought that wine production in the region goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks, though the exact period isn’t known. The tradition of using partially dried grapes, known as the “Greco” or “Greek style” of winemaking has its origin during this period. Throughout history from the time of the Empire, wines have been exported from this region to all corners of the known world. In the eighth century, traders from the Republic of Venice, a world power, merchant’s records show that local wines from the northern hills of Verona were regularly exported throughout the Mediterranean to the Byzantine Empire.
A while back I wrote about another wine, San Benedetto, which is another member of this wine family. Founded in 1960 by Sergio Zenato and his wife, it was truly a dream come true for them. Their fondest desire was to create a winery that was one with nature. One which could capture the fruits of the land and transform them into a world class wine. With undaunted passion they began to fulfill that dream, using a local grape, the Trebbiano di Lugano, and taking full advantage of the soil and the ideal weather. Following their first years in business, their drive and ambition to excel took them to research ways to improve and to surpass their own results. Now, over time, this tradition, this commitment to quality and innovation has been handed down to their children, Nadia, who handles the marketing and promotional activity, and Alberto, who oversees the production of the wines, from planting to bottling.
Alanera Rosso is a blend of several grapes, 80% Corvina and Rondinella, with some Cabernet, Corvinone and Merlot making up the balance. The wine is a rich ruby red with aromas of sweet cherries and slight hints of chocolate and tobacco. It is full bodied wine with elegant tannins and a long and pleasing finish on the papate. Although it does benefit from about a 2 hour decanting, it drinks very well after immediately opening. Don’t forget that a red wine, a good red wine is not meant only as a thirst quencher. A glass of wine is meant to be sipped on its own or with meals, and as such will technically decant in its drinker’s glass. And if you think about it, that is not a bad concept because wine, as most know, does improve with age. So nursing a glass of a good wine, well, you get the idea.
Wines from this region are full bodied, hearty and flavorful and Alanera is no exception. And while it is by no means the flagship product of this winery, it is most certainly a product of which they can be proud, and you will be most proud to serve. Alone or with a meal of grilled meats or stews, Sunday gravy or pizza, this is a versatile wine that will stand up. As I have said in the past so many times, if you can produce something of which your ancestors would be proud, you have a good product. This is most certainly the case here.
Just as an aside here, this winery is available for tours and vacations. The accommodations are luxurious, the food is delicious and the experience is that of a lifetime. The medieval charm is enhanced by luxurious rooms, meals which can be ordered in your room and available excursions to nearby localities and on Lake Garda. This has really nothing to do with the wines, except that the winery is right there so a tour is totally possible and I’m sure worth the time, and the idea that since the winery is there, so are the wines.
“Anni e bicchieri di vino non si contano mai = Age and glasses of wine should never be counted”
The real spirit of Italy is embodied in this saying. It may just sound like an invitation to drink more wine, which is of course entirely possible, but it is really an invitation to enjoy life fully. Forget your age, put your problems, your aches and pains aod your troubles aside for a while and take time to enjoy life. You only get one so make the best of it.
So spring is here. And in this part of the Carolinas the weather gets warm early and stays that way for a long time, so the outdoors season lingers into November and sometimes past. A time for a lighter wine to enjoy on the patio or the beach or in the comfort of your air conditioned home. With all that in mind, sit back, take your shoes off and relax. Put on some good Italian music, I highly recommend the beautiful voice of Anna Tatangelo, and enjoy life. Just as a side note, more about her in a later post. But this woman can sing!
The history of this winery dates back to 1902, when Giacomo Battista Tommasi married Augusta and went to live with her family in the hills of Valpolicella. There he began to cultivate the family’s lands and began to think of wine not as the thirst quenching drink, but more as a way of life and a product that he could promote as lively delectable for social gatherings. With wine being almost the official drink of the country, he had his work cut out for him and he realized that he needed a quality product to compete with his world-class neighbors in the region. Fast forward to the year 1997 when a decision was made to branch into this Pinot Grigio in an area more famous for its reds. Now, this excellent wine which is also a great value bows to tradition with a nod to natural sustainability, lightweight bottling, organic corks and recycled paper used for its labeling.
The Tommasi family owns some of the most prestigious vineyards in the hills of the Valpolicella Region of Italy. As a tribute to their own quality standard, they use only grapes grown on their estate giving them total control of their product. As such the family has established itself as kind of an ambassador to the world of Pinot Grigio. Attention to detail here includes growing only pinot grigio grapes in this section of the Prunea Estate, one of four such areas, planting the vines very close together and pruning them often thus assuring a small but intense yield and finally, harvesting at night to retain maximum freshness. Fermentation is completely done in stainless steel tanks for 4 months.
As with most Pinot Grigios this wine is slightly acidic, dry with an aroma and a flavor of pears and golden delicious apples. It lingers on the palate nicely with a light refreshing taste that can make even the hottest, most humid days an invitation to imbibe. With an alcohol level of 12% this wine is perfect for outdoor gatherings. Its golden yellow color lends only the slightest tint of green. I would serve it chilled, hold the ice though because you will want to cherish every mouthful in its purest most delightful form. It is drinking very well now so there is no real need to decant, true with most whites, unless you want to really show off the beauty, the eye appeal in this wine.
As this is a lighter wine I enjoyed it with my wife’s own marinara (roll those “r’s” please) sauce and our own home made egg noodles, or tagliatelle. I would also recommend pairing it with lighter fish and some delicate cheeses like goat cheese or with chicken breast stuffed with broccoli or mushrooms. But at its best, this is a good sipping wine. So pour a glass and go outside on a sunny day. Enjoy the nice weather, the season, the budding of your natural surroundings and let this wine take you away on a magnificent journey that starts where you want and does not end until you say so.
Nestled away on the Southeastern side of the continent is the Barossa Valley. Small by comparison to most of the more famous wine growing regions, the Barossa has been producing wine, red only, since 1985 which makes it a relative newcomer. However, this valley is not, as its name may imply in Italy. Nor is it in Europe at all. It is located in Australia which is now producing some excellent vintages. The climate here is warm with lower humidity but higher sunshine hours. This combined with the rich, clay soil is perfect for growing wine grapes and produces a smaller berry and a smaller yield which results in a higher concentration of juice. Harvesting is done at ripeness levels to give this wine a fresh flavor balanced with fruits.
For this vintage, considered one of the best, the winter rainfall combined with the soil to produce a long, excellent growing season. This was supported by a warm, dry summer resulting in strong, well rooted vines. These were harvested separately and fermented for up to seven days before racking and finally aging for twelve months in fine oak barrels. It is this attention to detail that has made this tiny valley a premier growing region.
The Valley, as I said, only produces red wine like Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache Shiraz. Producers here feel this is a specialty with a niche to fill and they have done so very well.
Wine is meant to be a social drink, slightly alcoholic, but less harsh than say a bourbon. It is meant to be sipped or enjoyed with meals and savored. Nothing, it has been said, ages better than a good wine and this is no exception. Good friends actually gave me this bottle so it was new to me but in researching it I found it interesting. Drinking it though was a pure delight. A deep colored wine with good tannins and a pleasant bouquet gives way to a very satisfying, full, rich bodied taste. A slight hint of pepper makes this a good wine to enjoy with a more spicy dish or a stronger tasting cheese.
One note though. This particular wine is meant, as many wines are, to be opened and finished on the same day. I think because of the warm and dry climate and the concentrate of the fruit it does not “sit” very well. Also, Australian wines are very light on the sulfites, the preservatives in wine that will enable it to stay overnight and still taste fine the next day. Sulfites when used too heavily, can also produce a headache, different from a hangover, after only a couple of glasses.
Although wine is aged, that does not mean that it can stay for too long a time after the bottle is opened. Aging for 12 months in French oak barrels is long enough. This wine longs to break free and satisfy! Pair it with hearty meats such as beef ribs or stews and strong well aged cheeses.
As this region is relatively new, awards have been few. But the 2015 Shiraz, also known as Syrah by the way, was awarded a silver medal in 2017 in the International Wine Challenge and also a bronze medal by Decanter World Wine Awards in the same year.
I found this to be a good value on all levels at about $13 per bottle. Good food, good wine, good friends all make for an enjoyable evening. And this wine will be proudly served in my home for years to come.
Picking a wine involves so much now. Everything factors into the decision including the name of the vintner, appearance of the bottle, reputation and of course, the price. I think that for most, especially the novice wine drinker, read that as the normal person, unless you have a personal preference, the price of a bottle of wine is a major consideration and that is a consideration of this column. I’ve found that there are so many good wines at reasonable prices that unless you are a bona fide connoisseur, a sommelier or shopping for a once in a lifetime occasion, a good wine does not have to break the bank. It is to people like that, people like me, that I have dedicated this column.
Scaia Corvina Veneto is produced by the Castagnedi family winery. This wine is made up of 100% Corvina grapes which are a story all unto themselves. The entire crop of these grapes is grown in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy except for a very small crop, about 47 acres, grown in Argentina. The grapes are used in conjunction with several other varieties to produce Bardolino and Valpolicella, which are lighter red regional wines, as well as in Amarone and Recioto. These blends are to be sure lighter than say a Chianti or a Sangiovese, but are flavorful and satisfying, and as such are very popular around the globe. Scaia, made solely of these grapes has a light to medium body but packs a load of flavor, simple because of the taste of the grape, but complex enough due to the fermentation and aging process. The naturally high acidity makes it a little on the tart side with a finish slightly tasting of dark, sour cherries.The grape itself ripens late and has been known to produce high yields, not all of which are suitable to wine-making. In fact the earlier fruits are sometimes discarded.
It was in the 1980’s that four Castagnedi brothers worked together to open their own winery with 50 acres they had inherited from their father.In 2006 they started a new project, giving it the name of Scaia which referenced the type of chalky, granular soil that broke apart easily. In the Veronese dialect, the name translates as crumbs, reminiscent of coarsely grated Parmesan cheese. An easy segue here too, because this wine pairs so well with cheeses making it a perfect component of a wine and cheese gathering.
The history of the winery does not go back very far as I said above. But the innovation, the motivation, the product and the conduct of this winery is a tribute to old time traditional family values. Again, four brothers getting together, forming a business in a very competitive field and coming up with products of which any would be proud. Scaia Corvina was a find for me. At just under $13, the plain, stark grey bottle drew me at first. Nothing ornate here. Just a bottle that said “wine” to me. In the glass the deep color is very impressive but it is the aroma that keeps the interest, and the flavor, light bodied with the taste of the grape being dominant. On the palate it is dry and a bit of a vanilla flavor tries to come through as does some leather, it is truly a feast for the senses.
I never really ascribed to the “white with fish…” theory and this wine is a perfect example of an exception to that rule. It is light enough, though you would not expect that from the color, to enjoy with poultry or strong fish, but also will stand up well to beef ribs or roast lamb. The alcohol content is 13% which is about average for a good sipping wine also. Try it with appetizers, scallops wrapped in bacon come to mind.
A product of which the Castagnedi brothers and their ancestors can be proud will become a fixture on my table. I have sampled many wines in this price range, and many which are more expensive, and Scaia can stand up very well to any of them. While it could stand about an hour decanting, it is excellent on its own. Just a thought here. This would be a perfect wine for someone starting on a wine journey. Not overly strong or heavy, very good on its own and at a good price point, this is an excellent wine as an introduction to good wine tasting. Enjoy it!
And, let me tell you, what a week. March 17 is the feast of Saint Patrick, while March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. Both men are storied in different cultural traditions, one Irish and the other Italian. But since both are rooted in ancient Christianity, they are sacred, surrounded by myth and legend and both are celebrated in the finest way…with food!
Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland. Although little is really known about his life there are certain parts of it which are based in history. Born to a wealthy Roman-British family although his actual birthplace is unknown, Patrick’s family was deeply involved in Christianity. His father, Calpurnia, was a deacon and his grandfather, Potitus, was a priest. Patrick however was not a religious person. At the age of sixteen it is said that he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. It was during that time that his religious roots took hold. He later wrote in his Confessions that the Lord took pity on him and gave him the opportunity to convert to Christianity. One day he heard a voice telling him that he would be going home. He escaped and made his 200 miles to a port where he persuaded the captain to take him. After three days sailing they landed in Britain and walked inland for 28 days. Now weak and starving, Patrick prayed for sustenance and was rewarded for his faith by finding a herd of wild boar. This was taken as a sign by the other men and his prestige grew. He continued praying and embraced the religious life.
After studying on the mainland Patrick was ordained a priest by Saint Germanus of Auxerre and acting on a vision he returned to Ireland where he was able to convert many, including many rich and influential women to Christianity, and ordained many priests. His work among the druids, the wealthy rulers of Ireland is notable here because he is often seen as the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland. The snake reference is likely a veiled one as snakes were not typically seen in Ireland and most probably refers to these druids.
Many things are associated with Saint Patrick’s life which over the years has been the stuff of legends. From Shamrocks to Saint Patrick Crosses, from a walking stick that grew into a living tree to “talks” with his Irish ancestors, his legend grew and still does in the annals of Irish History. But basically, this is a story of a good man, driven by faith and a belief, who dedicated his life to his people, and in service to his God. He is generally thought to have died on March 17th and his feast has been celebrated on that day since the early part of the 17th century.
Saint Joseph’s Day, La Festa di San Giuseppe, is a feast celebrated on March 19. Although little is known of his early life, what is known about him is that he was the husband of Mary and the foster or earthly father of Jesus. He is also the patron saint of workers and the month of March is dedicated to him. Joseph is generally thought of as a carpenter and this is mentioned once in the Bible. However his original job description is that of a “tekton” which describes a man of many skills not only in wood, but also in precious metals. Also in the Talmud, a carpenter is considered more of a wise and highly literate man. The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that Joseph was a widower, later betrothed to Mary. When it was discovered that Mary was with child, yet unmarried, this was considered a major sin and often punishable by death. But the story goes that Joseph was visited by an angel who explained the situation to him. Upon hearing this, Joseph married Mary and the biblical history known as the New Testament began.
Oddly, one of the legends surrounding him is that he was an expert donut maker who sold many of his donuts to the occupying Roman Soldiers.I guess this is where the tradition of the Saint Joseph’s Day pastries got started.
There is no mention in the Bible of his death, but it is generally assumed that he died before Jesus assumed his public life. Mary is often dressed as a widow and it just seems like Joseph really disappeared very early in Jesus’ life. However, there is one account of his peaceful death in the presence of both Mary and Jesus at the age of 111. This account first shows up in the 17th century in The History of Joseph the Carpenter, written in the 5th or 6th century.
So, there you have it. Two different men, two different lives lived in different times both of whom have an enormous influence on today. Both are venerated, as they should be and whether you fancy corned beef and cabbage or zeppoli and sfingi there is a gastronomical delight which awaits you. AAAH! But here is my advantage. I grew up Italian, and with my name being Joseph, I was assured of not only having pastries on my name day, but I got the second biggest one, after my grandfather. On the other hand, my wife is half Irish. And since her father was as proud of his Irish heritage as he could be, she got the corned beef. As for me? I get them both. Anne Marie! Come on! THE QUIET MAN is on! And bring the zeppoli’s and black coffee.
ERIN GO BRAGH! and BUONA FESTA di SAN GIUSEPPE everybody. Time to eat.
Give me a choice of any dish I would like to eat at any given time and I will say, with no hesitation, a dish of macaroni (pasta to the more modern generations). Served with a good marinara sauce, Sunday gravy, with seafood or agli olio (garlic and oil) there is nothing on this earth in the world of food more satisfying or more beautiful. Every bowl brings back a memory of Sundays when the gravy pot went on at dawn and cooked right up until it was served. No such thing as cooking it too long. Sausages, meatballs, braciole all came together to form one great taste, an aroma that filled the house and the feeling that we were home, that everything was good. Homemade pasta was the norm back then. So simple yet so wonderfully flavorful. Oh, the lost arts!
With all that in mind, well, are you hungry yet? If you’ve gotten this far you should be about ready to either cook some macaroni up or order out. So, okay. Put down the phone and get an apron. Home made macaroni is easy, yeah really! Clear the counter and get ready for a culinary delight.
INGREDIENTS: (remember, I AM Italian so measurements are approximate)
Good flour, type “00” which is more refined than say Pillsbury or Gold Medal
Durum semolina flour (optional, but strongly recommended)
Whole, fresh eggs
In a large bowl or on a clean counter (grandma never used a bowl) pour out 2-3 heping cups of flour. Make a well in the middle with plenty of space. About 1 tsp salt. Add 4 large eggs into the well. Mix, using a spoon first until the egg is all soaked in. If it is too dry, add another egg. Using your hands, knead the dough thoroughly until all the flour is absorbed and the dough is slightly sticky. Now, if the dough is too wet your pasta will never cook through. Too dry and it will fall apart while cooking. This step takes some real good judgement so make the dough just a bit sticky. When it comes off your hands easily it should be good. Now set that aside to dry for maybe ½ hour or so.
After the dough dries a while, cut it up into about six equal pieces. Work the dough a little more to make sure it is good. For this next step I am lucky because my son gave me a pasta machine so I can roll and flatten the dough to my desired thickness. If you have one start at the widest setting and roll the dough through your machine a few times adjusting the setting after each roll to make the dough thinner. Be careful you don’t make it too thin. You don’t want to see through it. If you don’t have a machine, use a rolling pin, but turn your dough over frequently so it doesn’t stick. When you reach your desired thickness, lay the sheets to one side flouring each sheet before stacking again so they don’t stick.
Again, after drying for a short time, separate the sheets of dough and cut them to your desired style of pasta. Again, I used the machine, but it is easy, and just as much fun to cut the sheets by hand. Adds to the personalization of the meal.
To cook, bring cold, salted water to a boil, add the pasta and let it cook. Because this is fresh dough it won’t take long, up to about five minutes for wider noodles, less time for thinner ones.
Drain off the water, add your sauce (gravy if it’s Sunday), mix it up thoroughly and just let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the pasta can absorb the flavors surrounding it. Serve it steaming hot with some good grated parmesan cheese and you have it. This is a relatively simple meal that makes a home someplace special, a place you want to go to. Honestly, you can have a dozen Italian restaurants near you but I can guarantee that making this at home will beat them all.
Sometimes it’s a memory. Sometimes it’s an expectation. But there is a feeling you get when you are close to home. Something inside just knows that you want to be there. And, believe me, when you open the door and smell this cooking, you know. You are home. And there is no other place like it.
In Italian, the word ‘Primavera” literally means “spring,” like the season. The time of year when nature springs to life, color is restored to the landscape and a man’s fancy turns to, well, you get the idea. But with it comes an entirely new set of recipes. The heavier stews and stuff are pushed aside in favor of lighter, more fanciful fare. Pasta primavera is just such a dish. With an assortment of vegetables and a clear sauce, this is the perfect weeknight meal for a nice evening. The mere fact that it contains macaroni is just a plus. You can also leave the chicken out altogether, or substitute fish, shrimp, scallops or clams. Simple preparation with real good results.
INGREDIENTS: (vary these according to your own taste, but I’ll give you mine)
Broccoli, about a cup and equal amounts of carrots and cauliflower. Feel free to add peas too.
2 nice cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
½ large onion, sliced
1 chicken breast or thigh
EVOO, about ¼ cup
Splash of dry, white wine (never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink)
Salt and some red pepper flakes(for a little zip. Otherwise, leave them out.)
A few cherry tomatoes
Okay. So as with all good Italian recipes, begin with, brown the garlic in the olive oil, Brown it. Don’t burn it and then add onions and tomatoes and sweat them down. Cut the chicken into cubes and brown them. Let them get a good sear on all sides. Salt liberally and add the red pepper and wine.
While all this is going on, bring your salted pasta water to a boil. Now, I did use a frozen bag of mixed vegetables just because they are easier, but naturally fresh is best. Add them to the chicken just before you put the macaroni into the pot. Let them cook like that so they will be done at the same time. Save some of the pasta water just in case it looks too dry. Pour the vegetables over the pasta, mix it up real good and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve with a good, dry Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon.
Now, just a few words here. First of all, please, and I can’t say this often enough, use a good pasta like Barilla or DeCecco. Save the store brand pasta for that boxed mac and cheese, or for people you don’t like. Using a good pasta will ensure a better meal. When you know the difference you’ll learn that a good pasta won’t be so starchy as a cheaper brand, nor will it turn to mush if you cook it too long. Pasta should be “al dente,” or firm with a flavor all its own. For this, I used a penne rigatti that looks pretty in the bowl and mixes well with the other ingredients. Also, do let the finished product sit for a few minutes before serving. This will enable the macaroni to absorb some of the goodness of the sauce, the olive oil, the vegetables and the meat. Adding the wine is also a bonus here because a good Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon will add a fresher taste to the sauce, almost like a lemon or citrus taste that goes so well. A glass of it will really bring it home for you! You can even sample some of the wine as you cook!
So there you have it. A pretty simple meal fit for you and your family or for that certain someone in your life. It will look like you slaved over a hot stove all day. But, if you’re okay with that, I’ll never tell. Buon Appetito!!
“Wine is water filled with sunshine.” (A French saying, author unknown)
So for today we ventured out and tried something different. I had never seen this wine before, but the clarity of the bottle and the simple, attractive label kind of drew me to it, so I gave it a try. I normally do enjoy doing this. I am the type of person who will order a flaming filet of yak, simply because it is on the menu and because it represents an adventure. Oddly, I only got burned once by this years ago when I ordered chicken in mole sauce in a Mexican restaurant. That experience was just awful, but I have had people tell me that it was probably not prepared well. No matter. I gave it a shot.
Sauvion Vouvray is a chenin blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Vouvray is the name of a small, picturesque town in the Valley, on the northern bank of the Loire, where houses are carved out of the local “tuffeau,” the sandy limestone in the area. Since the cellars are buried in this soil, they remain cool and humid all year providing an almost ideal climate for aging wines.
Chenin blanc is one of the most diverse of all grapes because it can be used in making bone-dry to very sweet wines, and everything between. It also has the innate ability to maintain acidity in any wine on the dry to sweet scale.
Sauvion Vouvray exhibits a golden yellow color, but with the light hitting it just right it also shows off a very slight greenish tinge. The aroma is very light and pleasing, kind of reminiscent of a chablis. You can grasp the aroma of the fruits very easily if you do let it sit for a few minutes before pouring. I normally don’t decant my white wines, but just to give this one a little time to breath and give off some of the acidity, this is one white that will stand up to a decanter and, since it is served chilled. benefit from a very slow move in temperature.
This wine really has the taste of very ripe melon with some slight leaning to spices. This is a lighter wine, actually better on its own than as a food accompaniment. With a slightly sweet taste, one that I was not expecting, it maybe even felt to me like more of a before or even better, an after dinner drink. Not that it got lost with the food, we shared it with a meatless pasta dinner, but the sweetness of the wine didn’t go well with the meal. A sweeter wine usually doesn’t pair well with a robust cheese or with the acid of a tomato.
But, don’t misunderstand. After dinner, maybe an hour or so, we went back and poured another glass. As it was still in the decanter it was aerating now for about three hours and the flavor, although still slightly sweet, was more to my taste. So I guess what I am saying here, to repeat myself, is that this is a stand alone wine. I could envision a hot summer day out on the patio really enjoying the refreshing tastes of this wine.
Even though I will normally prefer a very dry wine, I will be purchasing this one again as it is a good variation from what I normally drink. It is refreshing and in a word, different. And if variety truly is the spice of life, why not include a glass of Sauvion Vouvray to feed that hunger for diversity