Last night I watched the Directors Cut of Cinema Paradiso, my favorite movie of all time made even better by watching it the way the director intended it - all 170 romantic and emotionally resonant minutes! I poured myself a glass of Sardinian red wine, also a classic and a reverent tribute to the old traditions of winemaking.
So it was perfectly fitting when I started work this morning and ended up on hold for an extended period of time, but instead of bad musik - there was an announcement about how February is "Learn to Speak Italian Month". The scene of John Cleese speakin' Italian to Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda came rushing back to me!
Fettuccine Alfredo ** Mozzarella di Buffalo ** Reggianno Parmesano (oh my!)
Simple seduction with trilled r's and all those prounounced vowels! What a lovely language; is it any wonder that the wines, cheeses and pasta have that same seductive power? So, todays lesson is simple... wine notes and a recipe. Both contain many lovely Italian words - bon gusto!!
Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2004
The mother of all wines, the grapes that are used to make the Cannonau were cultivated on the island of Sardegna (Sardinia) in 1200 BC. The island is part of Italy, but like the Veneto, is autonomous and has its own language – one of my favorite scenes in the movie Mondovino is shot on the island with a very charming old winegrower and his wife while he speaks about the cultural commitments to the ‘old ways’.
Sella & Mosca is one of the most heralded producers in Europe and they are unique in that they operate the second largest (contiguous) vineyard in Italy – albeit, all on one island! The island has a rich and ancient relationship to winemaking but has been struggling to protect their native varietals in the push for the Cabernetization of the Italian wine industry. Sella & Mosca has fallen in step with that movement and pioneered Cab on the island, but still produces wines from the ancient grapes – let’s hope they keep it up for another 100 years!!
All I can say is, one taste of this lovely poetic red and you’ll wonder why any Sardinian worth his pecorino sardo (there are twice as many sheep on the island as humans!) would plant something as ho-hum as Cabernet in his vineyard. The aroma is mesmerizing – a rich medley of spices, violets and plums. It’s almost like tasting the history of the island or turning the pages of a book telling a fairy tale. There is a subtle, but warm sense of the soil and the relationship of the vines to the sea. The texture of the wine is also stunning as a result of 3 years of aging in old Slovenian oak casks.
Lasagna Primavera (Spring)
con Due Formaggio (2 cheeses) e Pancetta
Large Won-Ton or Chinese Eggroll Wraps ** 1 t. fresh chives
2 T. butter ** ½ lb. asparagus, steamed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped ** 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
½ c. chanterelle or oyster mushrooms ** 2 oz. Fontina, grated
1 ½ T. flour ** 4 oz. Aged Feta, crumbled
½ C. half and half ** 1 c. white wine
1 t. fresh sage, finely chopped ** 2 sundried tomatoes, diced
fresh nutmeg and black pepper
1. Prepare 9 x 9 baking dish by spraying with olive oil. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Preheat a sauté pan and cook pancetta until done but not crisp. Remove pancetta from pan and set aside. Add garlic, sauté until transparent.
3. Add mushrooms to garlic and sauté briefly just until glossy and limp, stir in chives, sun dried tomatoes and pancetta. Remove and set aside.
4. Melt butter in pan, sift in flour and whisk until no lumps remain.
5. Whisk in wine and sage and cook until slightly reduced.
6. Whisk in heated half and half (heating reduces chance of cream “breaking”) and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
7. Layer wraps, sauce, asparagus, mushroom mixture, and cheeses in three layers starting with wraps and ending with cheeses. Grate and bit of fresh nutmeg over each layer and grind a bit of pepper to taste.
8. Cover with lid or foil and baker 15 minutes, then uncover and cook for 5-10 minutes longer until internal temperature is about 135° and top is evenly browned. Let set for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with fresh greens and good bread.