Monthly Archives: July 2014

From Italy to Iran with love: Pepper and Pancetta Tortiglioni

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioniI have been fortunate enough to be asked by lovely Azita to write a guest post that she has published on her wonderful blog, Fig and Quince. If you don’t know Azita yet, do yourself a favor: go check her blog out and enter her enchanted Persian world.

This is the original guest post that I wrote for Azita, which contains a few differences (in the story, not in the recipe!) compared to that which Azita published: in other words, this is the director’s cut, if you will. 😉

I have been lucky enough to get to meet Azita in person a few months ago. I don’t remember how we found each other on the blogosphere but I remember how I felt at the beginning of our “relationship”
 cautious.

I have always been a big introvert and extremely good at keeping my distance from people – a huge disappointment due to a friendship that fell apart a couple of years ago didn’t help, and actually ended up making me even more skeptical, if possible, when it comes to meeting new people, either in person or over the internet.

However, when I started reading Azita‘s posts, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the cheerfulness, the lightness and the language richness of her writing style.

There is no doubt that her country, culture and culinary traditions are fascinating in and of themselves, but she is astonishingly capable to write about them in such an articulate and eclectic way that every time I read one of her posts I have the impression of reading one chapter of “One Thousand and One Nights”, where flavors, aromas, perfumes and ancient customs all blend in together to give birth to something magical.

And yet, her posts are always funny and cheerful and modern and colorful. Even her pictures and her compositions speak for the talented artist that she is. Her attention to details is impressive to say the least and her comments to other people’s posts are always brilliant with a touch of graciousness.

When I was about to meet her in person, I was nervous. I’m always nervous when I have to meet new people. It is simply not my thing! 😉 As soon as she stepped into my house, she came toward me and she hugged me and kissed me as if we had known each other for years. I will never forget that hug. Why? The warmth that her hug gave me as a human being was totally unexpected and yet so refreshing and fulfilling!

When I had to pick the dish to be published on Azita‘s wonderful blog as a guest post, I immediately went for a pasta dish with peppers. Why? Well, I’m Italian and pasta is one of the emblems of my culinary tradition. So no doubt there! 🙂 The reason I picked peppers is because I think they represent Azita in her fullness. Their color is so vibrant that they bring cheerfulness and happiness in your life as soon as you look at them and their taste is so strongly flavorful and overwhelming that as soon as you eat them your taste buds are literally pervaded by their richness the same way I was by Azita‘s hug that Sunday afternoon.

So from Italy to Iran – one way – with love!

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioni

2 Servings

Ingredients:

2 peppers
4 oz, chopped pancetta
1 leek
4 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
6/7 oz, pasta of your choice
2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
four/five thyme stalks
Ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:

Peppers and pancetta tortiglioniPreheat your oven to 400F.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Rinse the peppers under cold water, dry them and place them on a baking sheet (I always put some parchment paper on my baking sheet to be sure that nothing sticks 🙂 ). Bake for about 20 minutes (or until the peppers are cooked), take them out of the oven and, with the help of a knife and fork, remove the skin of the peppers.

In the meantime, cut off the green top of the leek and its root. Discard the outer layer. Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Rinse the halves well under water. On a chopping board, slice the leek thinly and evenly. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add the leek slices, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Add some water and stir occasionally until the water evaporates. Set aside.

In another skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta gets golden and crispy. Set aside.

Put a large pot of salted water over the stove to boil. While the water is warming up, place the peppers, the leek slices, some thyme leaves and 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a blender or a food processor. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) and blend everything until you obtain a smooth sauce. Transfer the sauce to a pot and warm it on a very low heat.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook it until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and put it in the pot where you warmed the sauce and toss to coat. Add the pancetta and toss to coat.

Put the pasta into the serving plates, dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese and garnish the plate with some thyme leaves.

Love,

Francesca Xx

Wine Review: I Borboni, Asprinio di Aversa "Vite Maritata" DOC 2011

Today’s wine is a very particular, small production Italian white wine from a little known appellation in the Campania region, namely I Borboni, Asprinio di Aversa “Vite Maritata” DOC 2011 ($21).

The Bottom Line

I Borboni, Asprinio di Aversa "Vite Maritata" DOCOverall, the I Borboni Asprinio was a good to very good white wine from an appellation that is not widely known, with a good QPR. It had a very good nose, if not too complex, with nice citrus and flowery aromas and hints of herbs. In the mouth its crisp acidity was all the way to the top of the scale and it went hand in hand with a marked, pleasant sapidity, both of which were very nicely balanced by the wine’s creamy smoothness. I Borboni’s Asprinio is a solid, good-priced option to consider for a warm Spring or Summer day, either by itself or paired to a seafood pasta or Francesca’s asparagus and pea flan.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended Good to Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape Variety and the Appellation

While Asprinio has for a long time been considered an autonomous grape variety (and still is by many today), DNA profiling has recently showed that Asprinio is actually exactly the same variety as Greco, which in turn is close to Aleatico. Greco is a white-berried grape variety that is mostly cultivated in Southern Italy, particularly in the Campania region.

If probably the best known appellation for Greco-based wines is Greco di Tufo DOCG near the town of Avellino in Campania, “the” appellation for Asprinio wine is Aversa DOC (also known as “Asprinio di Aversa DOC”) which was created in 1993 and encompasses an area, always in the Campania region, near the town of Aversa and the city of Naples, requiring the use of a minimum of 85% of Greco (locally known as Asprinio) grapes.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

Harvesting Asprinio di Aversa (AKA Greco) Grapes Image Courtesy of the Town of Aversa

Harvesting Asprinio di Aversa (AKA Greco) Grapes
Image Courtesy of the Town of Aversa

The word Asprinio is a variant of the Italian word “aspro” which means “sour” due to the high acidity that is typical of the wines made in this appellation. Based on the ISA wine pairing guidelines, this makes it the perfect wine to pair with dishes with considerable latent sweetness (please refer to my post about wine pairing guidelines for a more detailed explanation).

Another distinctive feature of the Asprinio di Aversa DOC appellation is the traditional way to grow the local ungrafted grapevines, where tall trees serve as natural trellis, resulting in vines that climb up to 82 ft (25 mt) high and require the use of very tall ladders to harvest the top grapes – the photograph to the right illustrates this singular grapevine growing method which is also known as “vite maritata” (literally, “married grapevine”).

About the Producer and the Estate

The winery that makes the Asprinio that we are reviewing (I Borboni) as well as their vineyards are located in the town of Lusciano, near Caserta, in Southern Italy’s Campania region and have been owned by the Numeroso family since the early 1900’s.

There, the Asprinio is still fermented and briefly aged in a winery that was built in a cave 43 ft (13 mt) deep into the ground, right underneath the owners’ family house. This provides an ideal environment for making and preserving the wine, ensuring even temperature, coolness and dampness throughout the year.

Our Detailed Review

I Borboni, Asprinio di Aversa “Vite Maritata” DOC 2011 was 12% ABV and it fermented for 15 days in stainless steel vats, where it then aged for 6 months, plus an additional month in bottle. A minor gripe that I have is that the bottle comes with a silicon closure, which I just find cheap and unbecoming of a good wine… but maybe that’s just me. 😉 It retails in the U.S. for about $21.

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was a lush golden yellow in color and moderately viscous.

On the nose, it was moderately intense (bear in mind that this wine really opens up when it is not too chilled: for me, it peaked at 58 F/14.5 C) and moderately complex, with fine aromas of citrus, orange blossoms, orange zest, butter and herbs.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, had medium ABV and was smooth; it was acidic and tasty, medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine flavors of citrus, orange, minerals and brine, with very accentuated sapidity and a medium finish. In its life cycle, the wine was mature, meaning drink now, do not hold.