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Wine And Food


Perfect Pasta alla Norma

A Sicilian Showcase for Eggplant

By Magda Gagliano

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Pasta alla Norma, just like pasta con sarde, is an all-time Sicilian classic as it showcases the island’s favorite vegetable: eggplant. Similar to the caponata recipe I shared with you not too long ago, this pasta dish also enjoys many interpretations and variations. Some home cooks leave the eggplant in large slices, others prefer a dice; some bake, while others sauté; spaghetti or penne… you get the point.


Magda Gagliano’s Pasta alla Norma

A new take an a Sicilian Classic.

I like making pasta alla Norma as a layered baked dish using 1/4-inch eggplant slices. The success of this dish truly relies on the quality of the eggplant. Larger eggplants tend to hold more seeds, which can be bitter, so look for small- to medium-sized eggplants. I also highly recommend making your own bread crumbs because the varying size of each crumb adds a nice salty/crunchy texture while thickening the sauce. Wrap a piece of day-old bread in a kitchen towel and pound with a mallet until the desired size is reached. And, if you cannot find ricotta salata, try a young pecorino.

Lastly, I am including my recipe for a basic tomato sauce that can be used for anything and everything, including this dish. My “secret” ingredient is the addition of, what else? Red wine! This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for 6 months. Please note that this sauce is a bit rustic, so if you prefer a smoother one, proccess it in a food mill on a medium setting.

Pasta alla Norma

Serves 6

2 pounds small to medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices

salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 tbls extra virgin olive oil

1 cup homemade toasted bread crumbs

1 pound penne

2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below)

½ cup freshly grated pecorino romano

10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

8-ounce piece of ricotta salata for grating

1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add a healthy handful of sea salt. Remember, the salted water should taste like the sea.

2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Working in batches, sauté eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

3. In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place on medium-high heat. Next add bread crumbs and toast in pan until golden brown. Be careful to pay attention to the pan as the bread crumbs can burn quickly. Once toasted, remove from heat, season with salt, and set aside on paper towel to drain.

4. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9 by 12 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

5. Next add penne to the boiling water for 4-6 minutes; they should still be quite firm (“uber” al dente) as they will continue to cook in the oven. Drain very well, place in a large bowl, and toss with 1 cup of the tomato sauce.

6. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with ¼ cup of the tomato sauce. Top with half the bread crumbs, then add half the pasta. Arrange half of the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly, on top of the pasta. Pour about ¼ cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant, and top with half of the pecorino and half of the basil. Top with the remaining pasta, arrange the remaining eggplant over the pasta, and pour remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino and basil, and then the remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.

7. Bake for 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Right before serving, grate ricotta salata over the finished dish and enjoy!

Tomato Sauce

Makes 4 cups

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, cut into ¼ inch dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ medium carrot, finely shredded

1 tbls tomato paste

Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

¾ cup “what you would drink” red wine, preferably Italian and NOT aged in oak

1 tbls dried marjoram

salt and pepper, to season

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and golden, about 8 minutes.

2. Next add the carrot and tomato paste and cook until the carrot is soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Now add the tomatoes, with their juice, and the wine and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat, add the marjoram and simmer until thick, about 30 minutes.

4. Season with salt and pepper.

Wine Pairing-Chianti, Brunello, Barolo.



Eric Guido’s Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

A simple pasta showcase for bitter greens

By Eric Guido

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As a child, I never understood bitter vegetables. Maybe it has something to do with our developing taste buds, or maybe it’s that we’re simply not subjected to enough bitter flavors in our youth. Whatever the case may be, as a child, whenever my family would eat radicchio, escarole or broccoli rabe, I would cringe and turn up my nose. In fact, it wasn’t until I was working in a restaurant, in my late twenties, that I truly developed a taste for bitter greens — and it was this dish, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage, that turned my head.
It is a simple preparation, made as most Italian foods are, with the best fresh ingredients, cooked in a style that does not rob them of their flavor or unique characteristics. It’s a dish that seduces your palate with contrasting flavors that somehow come together to please the palate. It showcases its spicy, bitter flavors against a butter and wine sauce. Add to that a bit of salty pecorino over the pasta, and you have perfection in simplicity.


Eric Guido’s Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

As for the wine, this dish pairs best with crisp whites, due to the bitterness of the greens and light nature of the sauce. However, due to its spicy character and earthy roots, you can also get away with Italian reds that lean toward a balance of acidity, such as a Barbera. I chose a wine a little off the beaten path from the north-eastern tip of Italy, in a region named Valle d’Aosta. The wines from this region hail from high elevations, as the area is literally surrounded by the Alps, which give them the exact balance of structure and acidity that I crave for this pairing.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Serves 4


1 bunch of broccoli rabe, washed with stems trimmed

olive oil, as needed
1 ½ pounds sausage, mix of hot and sweet according to preference and sliced into bite-size pieces

1 pound of orecchiette

¼ tsp hot pepper flakes

1 shallot, fine dice

½ cup white wine, preferably Italian

4 tbls butter, cubed

½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Tip: My recipe will tell you to cut the sausage into bite-size pieces. However, another method that delivers excellent results is to peel the casing from the sausage and crumble it into bite-size pieces.


1) Bring two large pots of seasoned water to a boil — one for the pasta and one for the broccoli rabe. Prepare an ice bath in a bowl on the side.

2) Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling seasoned water for 3 to 4 minutes or until nearly cooked and vibrant green. Now, remove the broccoli rabe from the pot (do not pour out the water) and place into the ice bath. Allow it to cool for one minute, then drain and set to the side. Reserve one cup of the cooking water for later in the recipe.

3) In a large sauté pan over medium flame, add enough light olive oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Allow the oil to heat and add the sausage. Cook the sausage and once it has browned on the first side, turn to the other side to continue cooking.

4) At this time you can also add the pasta to the water set aside to boil the pasta and set your timer for one minute short of the recommended cooking time.

5) Once the sausage has browned on both sides, add the red pepper flakes and the shallots. Lower the heat to medium low, and allow them to sweat for 1 to 2 minutes.

6) Raise the heat back to medium and add the wine. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up any bits of the sausage that have stuck to the bottom. When the wine has reduced by half, add the cup of reserved cooking water and the broccoli rabe to the pot. Continue to cook and reduce the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn off the flame and add the butter, stirring lightly to combine.

7) The pasta should be done around this time. Strain it, toss it with extra virgin olive oil and return it to the empty pot. Sprinkle with half of the grated Pecorino Romano cheese and stir. Now pour the entire contents of the saucepan over the pasta and turn the fame to low. Stir lightly for one minute to bring the entire contents of the pot together. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed.

8) Plate and serve with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano over each plate.

Wine Pairing-Italian white or red wine.



Risotto al Barolo

Two Versions of this Piemontese Classic

By Eric Guido

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Nothing thrilled me more as an aspiring young chef and lover of Barolo and Barbaresco than to learn that a dish such as Risotto al Barolo existed.  The idea of it was almost unimaginable; pouring half a bottle of Barolo into a pan.  I had to wonder, could it really be that good?  Could it really be worth it?  Well you know what? It is.


Risotto al Barolo con Uve Arrostita

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Risotto al Barolo

A very traditional Risotto al Barolo. It’s rich and satisfying with the flavors of Nebbiolo bursting from the seams.

Risotto al Barolo con Uve Arrostita

Where the traditional Risotto al Barolo seduces you with subtly, this dish is all about exciting flavors that come together in perfect unity to please the senses.

Risotto al Barolo comes from the one place on earth where it would be normal to have enough Nebbiolo-based wine hanging around to think of pouring it into a pan: Piedmont, Italy.  It’s a dish that was created by a people who worked hard to produce their wines and feed their families.  The classic recipe is not a risotto for the uninitiated.  It’s a rich dish that tastes of the wine you pour into it, which is important to remember when selecting the Barolo for this risotto.  In this case, I chose a young Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco.
With the understanding that many people may want to thrill their guests with something a little more colorful and with a wider diversity of flavors, I’ve also included a second recipe that was designed with fine dining in mind.  My guests had trouble deciding which of these recipes they liked more because, although they are very similar in practice, the two yield complexly different results.  I urge you to try them both.
As for the wine, my favorite pairing with Risotto al Barolo is easily Barbera. 

2007 Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne
– The color was a deep reddish purple. On the nose I found red fruit with floral notes, cedar and a slight funk of undergrowth. A lively expression appeared on the tongue, as its brisk acidity made the mouth water yet bombarded it with sour cherry fruit. There was juicy cranberry on the finish, which stayed fresh for what seemed like a minute. This was textbook Barbera that cut through the rich structure of both risottos and kept the palate lively and fresh.

2 Responses to “Wine And Food”

  1. Thanks for that! My dad recently harvested her garden full of tomatoes , and I found myself the owner of two or three buckets worth! Of course I couldnt eat them all, but I did find a website full of loads more tomato recipe at this site. A website dedicated the topic!! Crazy what you can find on the internet nowadays!!

  2. Excellent post, you really do some great work here.


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