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Category: PRIMI | FIRST COURSES

My dear grandfather, Pasquale,  was born in Puglia and immigrated to America when he was only eight years old. Although he was quite young when he left Italy, he always kept his country’s traditions and cultures alive. Nonno Pasquale was very frugal, as most Italians born in his generation were. He was also superstitious, as most Italians still are!  It was said to be back luck to throw away bread hence this simple pasta sauce was born. Compliment this salty, crunchy dish was a glass of 100% Grechetto from Madrevite, Elve‘.

Brodetto was initially created out of necessity, as every fishing boat had fish and seafood that could not be sold due to poor quality or size, so Marche’s fisherman invented a delicious silky-textured fish soup, as they did not ever throw anything away. This simple dish could be made directly on board the ship with a bit of seawater, vinegar, and olive oil. Almost every town in every region along the coastline of Italy has its version of Brodetto. Enjoy a crisp, chilled glass of Marchese white wine, like Centanni’s Falerio, a beautiful blend of Passerina, Pecorino, and Trebbiano grapes.

It is so satisfying to take a small number of fresh ingredients and transform them into a glorious, gratifying sauce. I prepare my pesto sauce using a pestle and mortar because the aroma is so enticing as I mash everything together. All of the ingredients can be thrown into a blender or food processor for ease and speed. This sauce is uber delicious paired with a chilled glass of Centanni’s Falerio, a blend of Passerina, Pecorino, and Trebbiano, all indigenous grapes of Le Marche.

 

To make this vegan-friendly, substitute the Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses with vegan cheese. I use Kite Hill Ricotta and Violife Plant-Based Parmesan cheese.

 

In 2022 my husband, Stephen,  and I went on a 3-week wellness retreat in hopes of finding non-medical ways to help manage his arthritis. After the second week of an all-vegan diet, his hands had so much less inflammation his wedding band fell off! It was then I was convinced we needed to continue this lifestyle and commit to one year of veganism. As a complete foodie, this was a considerable food challenge for me. I started making a lot of different pesto sauces over pasta or zucchini noodles. One of my favorite pairings is Pistachio Pesto + Poggio Grande Tagete, a superb blend of Marsanne and Rousanne grapes from the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany.

 

Feel free to add Parmesan or Pecorino cheese to this pesto to make it vegetarian. Or sometimes I use Violife Plant-Based Parmesan or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

One fall, we decided to let our truffle addiction lead us to a new town in Umbria, the truffle capital of Italy, Norcia. Norcia is known for its truffles and the horrific magnitude 6.6 earthquake that shook this charming little town to destruction back in 2016. It destroyed the entire village. When we visited in 2021, the poor town was under construction but mostly still rubble. We stayed at Palazzo Seneca, a lovely hotel, built in the 16th century. The Michelin-starred hotel restaurant, Vespasia, is outstanding. I encourage you to visit this town to support them in their efforts to rebuild their businesses, homes, and lives. Every day I was in Norcia, I would order their local black truffle dish of the day. This recipe is my version of a black truffle and anchovy pasta I enjoyed very much. I pair this pasta with a glass of Elve’, an Umbrian Grechetto wine from Madrevite.

To make this vegan-friendly, omit the anchovies.

Pici are big, thick, hand-made spaghetti. They are made with just flour and water. If you want to learn how to make fresh pasta by hand, I suggest starting with pici. They are easy and fun to make. Pici are typical of the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana in the southern part of Tuscany. It was at the organic pasta mill, Mulino Val d’Orcia, located in Pienza, Italy, where I experienced this dish for the first time. Aglione, also known as “Aglione di Valdichiana,” is a giant garlic variety grown in this area and is still cultivated using traditional techniques that have been handed down since the time of the Etruscans. I recommend the aglione sauce with a glass of Tuscan Sangiovese like Madonna Nera Rosso di Montalcino, the baby brother to the famed Brunello but at a fraction of the cost.

One of my favorite hot summer evening dinners to make is pesto sauce tossed with zucchini spaghetti (made with a spiralizer). No cooking is required, and it tastes delicious! Last summer, I was preparing this, and I wondered what the pesto would taste like with some zucchini. Another way for me to disguise a vegetable so my husband will eat it 🙂 I chopped up a few zucchini and tipped them into the food processor along with the pesto ingredients, and viola, zucchini pesto! It was super yummy, not to mention the added health benefits. Whether you serve this sauce over zucchini noodles or pasta, I like to pair it with a crisp, chilled glass of Valente Montonico Emozione No. 1 from Abruzzo.

Note: Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. I also like to freeze it in ice molds to have on hand.

 

Growing up, I ate a lot of Ragu’, meat sauce, at my Italian grandparent’s house. My grandmother would make Ragu’ in so many different ways, even with fish! I swap out the ground beef and pork with ground chicken when I am in the mood for a lighter version. My daughter, Remington, actually prefers this recipe to the traditional one. What I love most about this meat sauce is every single region has its way of preparing it, and sometimes even within the region, different areas will have their traditional method of cooking Ragu’. I enjoy serving a bottle of Centanni Pecorino, from the Le Marche region, with this dish.

One of my favorite places to eat risotto is Casa Fontana-23 Risotti in Milano. Here you will find daily 23 different risotto dishes done traditionally and some with a modern twist. Even though they have so many risottos to choose from, I always love the simple, refreshing, and delicious Lemon Risotto. This is my version of the dish that I love to pair with a light, crisp glass of Valente Emozione No. 1, a wine made with 100% Montonico grapes that comes from the mountains of Abruzzo.

I love artichokes so much,  I wish they were in season all year! Since they are not in season year-round, I started substituting frozen hearts when I needed my artichoke fix. You can easily modify this recipe to use additional vegetables like mushrooms, asparagus, peas, or even poultry! If you decide to add poultry to the risotto, I recommend using chicken broth. Otherwise, I always make this recipe using vegetable broth. Enjoy this savory risotto with a crisp and delicious glass of Grechetto like Madrevite’s Elve’ from the beautiful hills of Umbria.

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