A Lesser-Known Wine, a Good Find from Umbria

Cantina dell’ Alunno 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino 14.5% by volume. This wine is made with 100% Sagrantino grapes.
Sagrantino is considered a rising star among Italy’s top-notched ageworthy red wines.  Sagrantino di Montefalco has attracted wine enthusiasts from around the world. In 1992, this grape variety was elevated to DOCG status, the highest-ranking category of Italian wine denominations.
Montefalco is a magnificent hilltown in central Umbria. Unlike all the other major tourist towns around Italy,  Montefalco is quiet and known for the production of its indigenous grape, Sagrantino, as well as its medieval churches. 
Sagrantino is an extremely tannic wine and is high in alcohol. The tannins are naturally found in grape skins, their seeds and stems. This natural occurrence adds bitterness and complexity to the wine. Sagrantino is bone dry and the legs are super slow which indicates a high-alcohol content. Due to the high level of tannins, this wine is packed with anti-oxidants and pairs well with meat-based dishes and gamey food.
When I first tasted it, it was so bitter, I was grimacing. I decided to decant it and used the vSpin, (you can use any decanter) but this one works pretty fast. After decanting it for about 7-8 minutes, the wine started to open up nicely. The wine is dense and the color is a dark garnet. On the nose, it boasts robust aromas of dark cocoa, cigar box, tobacco, dark fruits, and spices. On the palate, there is an explosion of bitter cocoa, cedar, moderate amount of oak, with firm tannins and a persistent finish. This is a serious wine and should be consumed with food and/or aged cheeses. I paired it with lamb loin chops and it stood up to the gaminess of the meat. It intertwined nicely with the mint jelly and the accompaniments.
Sagrantino generally reaches full maturity after 10-15 years from the harvest and is able to bottle age for more than 30 years. 
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This wine is definitely different from what I am used to but it was a good find! As always, I love exploring various Italian wine terroirs. If this sounds like your style of wine, I suggest you give it a try! If you’ve had this wine, I’d love to hear your experience. 

Happy sipping and happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

Discover the Splendor of Salento and its Signature Italian Wines

Puglia has become one of the hottest spots in Italy where people flock to the beach to bask in the hot sun, enjoy the local wines, and partake in the Italian culinary traditions. This region is known for its wine production, cultivation of tomatoes and artichokes, and is a major producer of olive oil.  It’s also known for its famous “cucina povera” which translates to poor cuisine because the people use simple, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients.  Orecchiette—Italian for “little ears”— a regional pasta shape, fava beans, eggplant, and an abundance of fresh seafood are part of their diet. The Puglian cuisine and the wines produced in this area intertwined nicely.

As a result of my infinite love affair with Italian wines, I have tasted hundreds of them in classes, seminars, festivals, and private gatherings. If you are a wine enthusiast like me, you would be constantly exploring grape varieties from different Italian regions.

In this article, I will focus on Salice Salentino DOC wines from the Salento area. They deserve to be recognized for their richness and signature taste. Their production is still in its infancy stage unlike the wines from other major Italian regions like Piedmont and Tuscany.

Facts and history:
The Salento Peninsula in the region of Puglia is in the southernmost part of the boot known as the heel. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a sunny dry climate. The soil is fertile and the wines tend to be high in alcohol. This is due to the lack of rain in the area which creates a challenge for winemakers to craft attractive wines. The Salento area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, exquisite regional cuisine,
sun-baked vineyards, luscious wines,  and cultural diversity.

In the 1930s, the farmers would combine the Negroamaro grape, known for its earthy bitterness with the Malvasia Nera to add sweet character to the wine. This blend created a perfectly balanced wine. The rosé version followed soon after. Over time, the farmers continued to experiment and created new varieties of Salice Salentino, which now include: Negroamaro, Negroamaro Rosato, (rosé) Pinot Bianco (white wine), Fiano, Chardonnay, and Aleatico.

The Salice Salentino wines became so important in that region, that, in 1976, they were assigned the DOP: “Denominazione di Origine controllata –official quality label (DOC, “controlled designation of origin”.)

Salice Salentino owes its name to the town bearing the same name in the province of Lecce. This province is known for beautiful churches and baroque-style architecture. Lecce has been the main production of these wines for years, and is protected by a Consortium called: Consorzio Di Tutela Vini D.O.P. Salice Salentino. The Consortium was founded in 2003 and consist of 1,858 members, among them are winemakers, bottlers, and winegrowers.  The goal is to promote and ensure the protection of the territories, vineyards, ancient trees, and the indigenous grapes of the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi. The wines from that region are marketed and controlled by the Consortium to ensure the quality and the authenticity of the local grapes. Additionally, it was created to enhance and preserve this area for its great winemaking tradition.

The main grape is the Negroamaro, which translates to “black bitter” in Italian. This grape variety thrives on the terroir that combines clay and limestone soils. The Malvasia Nera is also a popular variety known for its aromatic qualities. Both grapes tend to be dark and intense in flavors.

Production and procedural guidelines:
For many years, the Salice Salentino wines have been made according to the requirements of their procedural guidelines. The entire process, from the grape growing to the final stage must take place in a specific area. It includes the districts of Salice Salentino, Veglie and Guagnano, in the province of Lecce, and Sandonaci, in the province of Brindisi, as well as some portions of the districts of Cellino San Marco (Lecce) and Campi Salentina (Brindisi).

Specific grapes are required for each single Salice Salentino wine.
At least 75% of Negroamaro grapes is required in the Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and the Rosato (rosé wines); whereas 90% of Negroamaro is required in the Salice Salentino Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato varieties. Additionally, local dark-colored grapes like the famous Malvasia Nera of Lecce or Brindisi can be used for blending as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In the Salentino Aleatico wine, (red) at least 85% of the Aleatico grapes is required, and can be blended with Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or local Primitivo.

The Salice Salentino Bianco (white) is made 70% from Chardonnay grapes, if it does not have any other appellation. There are other types of Salice Salentino Bianco—Chardonnay, Fiano and Pinot Bianco which must contain at least 85% of the corresponding grapes.

There are also Spumante (sparkling wine) versions of the Salice Salentino on the market. This method involves natural fermentation without the addition of carbon dioxide. The Bianco, Rosato, Negroamaro Rosato, Pinot Bianco, Fiano and Chardonnay are generally used for this style of wine.

The Riserva (reserve) versions of Salice Salentino Rosso, Negroamaro, and Aleatico are aged for at least 24 months, including at least 6 in oak barrels.

The Dolce and Liquoroso versions of the Salice Salentino Aleatico are also produced and  make great dessert wines. The Dolce Naturale must have a finished alcohol of 15% and Liquoroso must have 18.5% which is like a fortified wine. Once produced, the wine is bottled in glass bottles that can have different sizes and corks, depending on the type of product.

Flavors and characteristics:
These Salice Salentino wines are enjoyed worldwide. The red ones are generally cherry, ruby or garnet-colored, and their shades become more intense as they age. The Riserva tends to have a brick color. The red wines are robust and full-bodied and can generally be classified as dry wines. The Rosso Riserva and Rosso Riserva Negroamaro have fragrant aromas of ripe fruits such as plums and cherries with a touch of spices. The sensory experience as perceived by sight, smell, and taste varies depending on the grape variety that has been used, and the way the wines are produced.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties are predominantly sweet, dense, and are higher in alcohol.

The wines from the white grapes are straw yellow in color, refreshing, and fragrant with delicate fruit notes; while the Bianco and Fiano varieties have greenish hues.

Lastly, in the spumanti made from traditional wines, yeast notes are easily detected due to the re-fermentation process.

Food & wine pairings:
In general, meat-based recipes, and complex dishes are paired with the Salice Salentino from red grapes to stand up to the robustness of the wine. Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk also makes for a killer pairing. The Salice Salentino Rosato pairs nicely with salamis, less-intense dishes like chicken and pork, delicate cheeses, and fragrant frittatas.
The Salice Salentino Bianco goes well with swordfish and salmon, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The bianco variety also pairs nicely with a Caprese salad using tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil from the local farms. Whenever possible, pairing food and wine from the same region is ideal, as they are grown in similar soil.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties make great dessert wines and would pair heavenly with the popular pasticciotto. This traditional dessert is known for its a flakiness, buttery short crust filled with an exquisitely rich vanilla pastry cream. There are also chocolate and pistachio versions of the filling. This dessert is also common for breakfast.

My food & wine pairing experience:
I had the pleasure of tasting the Rosalbore Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato DOP from Cantina Sanpancrazio, a beautiful rosé made with 100% Negroamaro grapes. The color is deep coral, (like I’ve never seen before) lightly perfumed with aromas of strawberries and gentle floral notes. The palate follows the nose, with luscious flavors of semi-ripe strawberries, and the tannins are soft. This wine is intense and well-structured with a lingering finish. The alcohol content is 13.50% by volume. The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the heaviness of the Rosso (red wine) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety).

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

I paired this delightful rosé with a delicate frittata made with tomatoes, scallions, pancetta, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It was like the king meeting its queen (the rosé) in the quest for a beautiful romance. This food and wine combination went together harmoniously and felt like a never-ending fairytale on the palate.

I also tasted the Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP from Cantine De Falco which is made with 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera. The color is garnet, showing fragrant spices like vanilla and nutmeg on the nose, dark cherries, and plums on the palate, with nuances of cocoa, cigar box, and oak. There is a hint of sweetness in the wine that comes from the ripeness of the fruits. The tannins are velvety, and the finish is persistent. The alcohol content is 14% by volume.

In the region of Puglia, it is common to eat horse meat, and it would make perfect sense to pair this big wine with it. However, since we do not consume this type of meat in the United States, I prepared braciole, an Italian-style gourmet beef dish that is stuffed with garlic, parsley, and prosciutto and then rolled up. They were seared on medium-high heat, then simmered for a couple of hours in a rustic-style tomato sauce. The stuffed meat and the acidity in the tomatoes were a perfect match for this majestic and full-bodied wine. This dining experience was the epitome of a beautifully balanced meal.

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Braciole

Braciole

I hope this reportage on Salice Salentino wines has piqued your curiosity to explore this splendid Italian region and its autochthonous grapes. These wines are not only luscious but they are affordable. This combination makes for a win-win sensory experience. Now, that I have tasted these wines, it’s time to visit Puglia. I will dream about it, until it becomes a reality.

Happy sipping from my kitchen to yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Food & Wine Pairings, Thanksgiving Edition 2018

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

IMG_8053This is the third Thanksgiving season without my daddy, and I miss him every day.  Finally, I can say I am somewhat getting back into the spirit of the holidays. We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make this time of the year more enjoyable. This is a period where families and close friends gather around a bountiful table and celebrate with food and wine. Thanksgiving is literally around the corner and it’s time to show gratitude to our loved ones. For those of you who are hosting, I am sure that your menu is in place but don’t forget to add this wine selection to your list. Today, I will help you pick some delightful wines to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There are many reasonably- priced wines that will work wonders.

I want to keep this as simple as possible without getting technical with fancy wine terms. Wine pairing is subjective and everyone’s palate is different. Let’s not stress over which wine goes with what food. These are my wine suggestions to add a little pizzazz to your party and make it fun for your guests.

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as basic wines for your cheese platters and appetizers, including seafood. Make sure the white wines are not overly chilled because this effect can take away from the flavor profile of the wines (herbaceous, lime, peaches, pears, oranges…) If you want to impress your guests, add other interesting whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio, or a white Rioja. The list is endless and the choice is yours. Keep in mind not everyone has a palate for white wine, be sure to have some light to medium- bodied red wine such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, or a Chianti Classico.

White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are classic choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness (unless you pick a dry Riesling) and intoxicating aromas of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.

Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc pair deliciously with vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

Pinot Noir is an excellent red wine to pair with the turkey especially if you have mushrooms in your stuffing; it will bring out the characters of earthiness. There is a vast selection of Pinot Noir in the market. Check out some Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region In Oregon. They tend to be more rustic with notes of cranberries, and they are on the earthy side. These wines are often compared to those from the Burgundy region. California and New Zealand also make great Pinot Noir. If you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.

Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to prepare a delicious turkey for my family last night. I stuffed it with a blend of wild, brown and red rice, mushrooms, sweet sausage and sage and served it with my delectable homemade gravy. I also made a green salad to complement the meal. This was all done in one day, and I didn’t have the time for the classic sweet potatoes. Sigh! The entire meal was paired with a luscious Chianti Classico Riserva that went together marvelously. The baked spices, dark fruits, and the oak in the wine intertwined perfectly with the allspice and the sage in the turkey. It was a Grand Slam with an explosion of rustic flavors.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

When in doubt, you can always rely on bubbles. They’re festive and vary in prices, from the least expensive to the most sophisticated. Sparkling wines and Prosecco are fantastic choices and won’t break the bank. If you are having a fancy affair, Champagne and Franciacorta are always a good idea.

Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon

de Venoge Champagne

de Venoge Champagne

Dessert wines: Fortified wines are a great choice to pair with decadent desserts. Tawny Port pairs nicely with pumpkin and cherry pies, Muscat d’Asti with apple pies, Mavrodaphne with baklava, chocolate mousse cake with Brachetto d’Aqui.

This is not a wine tasting party, and it doesn’t have to be precise. Use this blogpost as a guideline to help you decide which wine to serve at Thanksgiving. The holidays are already stressful and there are far more important things to stress over. I am also featuring one of dad’s favorite wines called Quattro Mani, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.
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Opus One

Opus One

Opus One is a sophisticated and complex wine, and would complement a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly would take a big chunk out of your wallet. In the end, it’s not about the money you spent, whether it’s little or a lot, what matters is the quality of time that you cherish with your family and friends.

I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving from my family to yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Personality – Certified Level 2 WSET and Sommelier
Cookbook Author: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
To purchase my book, please click here: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

 

Opus One, an Iconic Wine

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

As my birthday is approaching, (October 26th) I thought, I’d crack open a seductive bottle of 2013 Opus One, a Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley. It’s made with 5 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This opulent red wine is made in the exact same fashion as a Bordeaux First Growth. The color is an intense crimson red with slow-moving legs and a 14.5% ABV.  All you have to do is, take a good whiff of it to realize that this wine is in a class of its own. The nose boasts intense aromas of cedar, chocolate, dark plums, and intoxicating spices. It has a luscious mouthfeel with hints of dark cocoa, tobacco, leather, and black pepper. The wine is dense with layers of complexity. The tannins are velvety and the finish is extremely persistent. This is a special occasion wine and I paired it with a mouth-watering rack of lamb and a delectable eggplant dish called ratatouille. The earthiness of the veggies weaved magically with this iconic wine.  A wine of such magnitude is made to age in the cellar in order to enjoy the optimal flavor profiles. However, since I have no patience, and life is passing by so quickly, I decided it was time to open it up and enjoy “Gina’s Dolce Vita” to the fullest.

The wine is perfectly balanced, and all the other elements come together harmoniously. I enjoyed sharing it with my loved ones, and it was a memorable evening. I used a decanter called vSpin to aerate it, and it opened it beautifully.

“Opus One is the realized dream of two men: Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Together, our founders set out to create a single wine dedicated to the pursuit of uncompromising quality. This singular mission shapes every vintage, today and for generations to come.” ~ Opus One Winery

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” ~ Robert Mondavi

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

I hope you have enjoyed my delightful food and wine experience. I have recently published a cookbook that contains a treasury of recipes and some wine pairing suggestions. If you would like to obtain an autographed copy, please click on this link:  https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

CCC-Cookbook-Cover-FrontJpeg

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust) Level-2
Level-2 Sommelier
Culinary Personality and cookbook author of: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover, LLC

Disclaimer:

Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this blog post and my cookbook is implied or claimed.

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

Bacon

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

 

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

A Memorable Egg Sandwich, A Lifeguard Special on Montauk Beach

This delicious breakfast transported my hubby, Peter, to Montauk, Long Island, where he spent his childhood. The beaches are a paradise for surfers and fishermen. The weather is unpredictable, and the fog can roll in at anytime of the year. Montauk is famous for its Lobster Roll and the briniest clams.  I’m fortunate to have visited this charming village, and the surrounding towns of Southampton and East Hampton.  Many celebrities from all over,  and New Yorker’s flock to East Hampton to enjoy the pristine beaches and the glamorous life.  A visit to the Lighthouse in Montauk is a must.  Peter’s father used to own the concession at Hither Hills Campground in Montauk, Long Island, while his mother, Dorothy ran the General Store. One of her specialties was the egg sandwich that she made for the lifeguards, hence, the name: “The Lifeguard Special”.  Peter always told me about this famous sandwich made on a poppy-seed roll.  I’ve always wanted to try, but could not find the rolls with the poppy- seeds. Finally, I decided to call my local grocery store, and ordered the rolls from their bakery department. They were freshly baked,  warm and soft. (New York, undeniably makes the best bread.) This may take a little practice before you get it right, and the time will vary, depending on the pan you use and your stove.

Average time: From start to finish 10-15 minutes – Level of difficulty: Easy-medium

Servings: 1 per person – Make 2 at a time

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 2 eggs, over-easy
  • 2 slices of American cheese*
  • 2 Kaiser rolls with poppy-seed
    Preparation:

    1) Start by cooking the bacon, however way you do it. I did mine in a cast iron pan until crispy. Remove and drain them on a paper towel.
    2) In a frying pan over medium-heat, heat olive oil, crack the eggs open, and cook until the egg white is about 75% (more or less)  done, as seen on picture. (You may have to lower the heat)
    3) Flip the eggs, add 2 strips of bacon and a slice of cheese on each. Cover for 1-2 minutes. Remove at once, and  place on the roll, egg side up.
    When you bite into it, the eggs and cheese should be oozing some deliciousness.
    * I used Cheddar instead of American cheese.
    I hope you will try this delectable breakfast in your kitchen, and refrain from eating at those fast food chains. I always say, if you cook at home,  you know what you’re putting in your food, and you run less risk of contamination.

    The General Store at Hither Hills Campgrounds

    The General Store at Hither Hills Campgrounds

Hubby and our son Matthew on a foggy day

Hubby and our son Matthew on a foggy day

Pristine beach in Montauk

Pristine beach in Montauk

Cousins at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk

Cousins at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

 

Gina’s Penne Alla Vodka

Guanciale

Guanciale

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

If you are looking for some comfort food that is rich and satisfying, I’ve got this delicious pasta recipe that will make you smile from ear to ear. Penne alla Vodka is not a traditional dish and its origin is unknown. It’s popular in the Italian-American community, however, because of its richness, it is not part of my weekly repertoire. You can serve it with a protein and a veggie of your choice.  I used some guanciale that I brought back with me from Italy.  This pork fat is not available in most grocery stores in the USA (unless, you go to a specialty store) and it’s perfectly ok to substitute it with pancetta.  Let’s get cooking!  Put on your apron,  and follow me in the kitchen.

Serves: 6-8 Difficulty level: Easy to intermediate
Allow about 1 hour of prepping and cooking time

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. guanciale or pancetta
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup Vodka
  • 1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 32 oz. jar, prepared sauce (meatless)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Italian parsley, rough-chopped
  • 1.5 lb. penne pasta
  • Parmigiano Reggiano,  (Parmesan cheese)Preparation:

    1) In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat, sauté the guanciale for 2-3 minutes, add the onions, cook for 2-3 minutes, then the garlic, 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with the Vodka. Cook for about 2 minutes.
    2) Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the flame, simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    3) In the meanwhile, bring pasta water to a boil, add salt and cook penne al dente or as per package directions. Drain well. Return to the pot. Drizzle some of the sauce on the pasta so it doesn’t clump up.
    4) At this time, the sauce should be almost done, slowly pour the cream into the tomato sauce, and gently stir it in one direction. Let it simmer on low for 5 minutes.
    5) Use a ladle to pour the sauce over the pasta. Mix it well until each pasta is drenched in the sauce. Serve it in a large decorative bowl.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and garnish with parsley.

    Buon Appetito!

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
    World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
    Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
    Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

    Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

    Penne alla Vodka

Fattoria di MonteMaggio, A Magical Boutique Winery in Tuscany

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

My husband and I recently took a spectacular trip to Italy and visited some amazing regions, rich in cultures and traditions.  One of our destinations was Tuscany and we were living our dream of “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life). We were blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills and the lush cypress trees. Finally, all the landscape pictures we had seen were coming to life and the views were similar to that of a postcard. On the first day, we got to visit this beautiful winery called: Fattoria di Montemaggio, located in Radda in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico region.

It’s truly magical with a stupendous view of the valley, and well-manicured grounds. There were full-blown roses and fresh artichokes growing in the immaculate garden. Ilaria, the estate manager greeted us with a beautiful smile and gave us a tour of the vineyards. It was clear how passionate she was about her job and demonstrated a great knowledge in the viticulture and viniculture process of wine making. She gave us a little lesson about the stubborn Sangiovese grape, as I explained in an earlier post:  The temperamental Sangiovese grape variety . I pointed out to her that the ground seemed very dry and she replied: “we need to make them suffer”. Of course, she was referring to this particular grape variety.  After a tour of the vineyards and some photo snapping, it was Denis, the cellar manager, who guided the wine tasting.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of wines in the company of Riccardo, our amazing tour guide and the multi-talented Katarina Andersson. She is a translator, an educator and a wine writer at: Grapevine Adventures. The wines were luscious and of high quality which were no surprise to us, after seeing the labor of love that went into producing them. Fortunately, because of the terroir and the micro-climate, Fattoria di Montemaggio is able to grow many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, with small additions of Merlot, Pugnitello, Chardonnay, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo.

A few months ago, I was able to get their Chianti Classico in my area and paired it with Pork Chops in Tomato sauce. It worked delightfully.  I brought back a couple of bottles from this recent trip and cannot wait to crack them open. If you intend to visit Tuscany, I highly recommend that you put Fattoria di Montemaggio on your itinerary. You will be very happy with this gem of a place.

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The rose garden at Fattoria di MontemaggioThe view at Fattoria di MontemaggioIMG_8849The views at Fattoria di Montemaggio

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on this beautiful winery and the enchanting photographs that I captured during my visit. My wish for you is to have the opportunity to visit this lovely place and bask under the Tuscan Sun.

Happy Travels!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Level-2 -World renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Culinary Personality, Cookbook Author and Lover of Global Cuisines

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer

Fattoria di Montemaggio

Fattoria di Montemaggio

 

 

Gina’s Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

 

 


There are many explanations that describe the origin of this dish. Puttanesca (literally means whore’s style spaghetti) is believed to have originated in the Campania region of Italy. In 2007, when we visited the ruins of Pompeii in Naples, our tour guide Marco from Perillo Tours explained to us the story behind the name of this dish. According to him, the ladies of the evening made it to lure the men into their house by attracting them with the aroma of the sauce.  Other sources claim the ladies made it  because it was easy and quick as they were always busy and had little time for cooking.  Whatever the story, Puttanesca is a delicious and lively sauce that you can whip in no time. It’s best served over spaghetti. It is tasty but on the salty side.

 

Get the recipe in my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

Warning: This dish has a high sodium content
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to yours,
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
Culinary and Global Cuisines Aficionado

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Exotic Moroccan-Style Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine marinade
I am so fascinated with global cuisines that I jump from Italian pasta dishes, to Greek deliciousness, Middle Eastern delights, Caribbean flavorful dishes to other exotic cultures. Today, I am taking you on a journey (via my blog) to Morocco for a taste of My Chicken Tagine. A tagine is an earthenware pot in which this dish is traditionally cooked in.  Using preserved lemon is also part of the tradition, however in this recipe,  I used fresh lemon instead. No, I have not been to Morocco but I love the way they use aromatic spices in their dishes. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen for this delightful meal.

Serves: 6-8 Level of difficulty: Intermediate
Allow up to 2.5  hours from start to finish

Ingredients for chicken marinade:

  • 5-6 lbs. chicken thighs and legs, skinless
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + slices of lemon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil for marinade

  • Remaining ingredients: 
  • 6 -8 tbsp. of olive oil for searing the chicken
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1.5 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup pimento-stuffed olives
  • 8 oz chickpeas
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

    Preparation:

    1) Marinate the chicken for at least one hour,  with onions, ginger, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper, cinnamon, lemon juice, olive oil.  Keep refrigerated for 45 minutes and keep at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to cooking it. Please keep your house cool.
    2) In a large tagine or Dutch-oven, over med-high heat, heat olive oil, and sear the chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. You will do this in batches and use more oil as needed. Remove and set aside.
    3) In the same pan, add the onions from the marinade, sauté for couple minutes, add garlic, sauté for 1 minute, tomato paste, 1-2 minutes till it’s rust in color. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Deglaze with the wine for 1-2 minutes.
    4) Add the chicken, broth, olives, chickpeas, carrots, raisins and lemon slices as seen in picture. Bring to a boil.
    5) Cover and simmer on low flame for 30 minutes. Remove cover, simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Serve with Moroccan couscous. Bon Appetit!

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas – Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
    WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
    Global Cuisines & Cultures Aficionado

Balsamic-Glazed Flank Steak with Orange Gremolata

photo (44)

 

Gremolata

Gremolata

FoodieWineLoverDecember2014 049

Mise en place for Flank Steak

 

For all meat lovers, this Balsamic-Glazed Flank Steak with Orange Gremolata is a delicious dish to add to your repertoire. It’s easy and makes for a beautiful presentation. Put on your apron, and lets get cooking!

Serves: 4 – 6     Degree of difficulty: Easy

Ingredients for the Steak

  • 1.5 – 2 lbs. flank steak
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    Season the entire steak with salt and pepper. Let it sit at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes. (Keep your house cool)

In the meanwhile, prepare the Gremolata and the glaze.

Ingredients for Gremolata

  • 1/2 cup flat-leave parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
    Mixed together and set aside.

Ingredients for glaze

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 TBSP. olive oil

Preparation:

1) Heat olive oil and saute’ the shallot until it’s not longer translucent. Add the balsamic vinegar, bring to a boil and reduce on very low heat for about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2) Grill the steak on high heat for about 4- 5 minutes on each side, depending on your desired doneness. I cooked it for 10 minutes which resulted in a medium, medium rare temperature. Let it sit for a couple of minutes to retain its juices. Slice it diagonally against the grain. Place it on a rectangle serving dish for a delightful presentation. Drizzle the glaze on top, and sprinkle the Gremolata all over the steak. Voila! A wonderful and refreshing way to dress up the meat to the nines. Serve it with a side dish of your choice.

Wine pairing suggestions: Syrah or Shyraz from Australia

Bon Appetit from Gina over at Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover (Canon Rebel T3)
Culinary Aficionado
WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur

 

 

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