NGW: Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2008   Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from an old friend that I see about 3 or 4 times a year.  When Ms. R and I get together with him and his wife, there is usually too much wine.  Usually it’s him and me doing most of the damage.  Of course, at the beginning of the evening, there is no such thing as “too much”.  At the end of the evening, there is no such thing– even as we commit acts outside of the established limits of stupidity.  One more bottle?  SURE!  During our last drinkathon, we popped open a bottle of this week’s NGW wine.  He paid over $20 for this– at least that’s what he said, though when I quizzed him about that he said all that he remembered from that night was that he went to bed and awoke in a Spitzerian state of inebriation wearing only his socks the following morning. (For the benefit of our non-New York readers– Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York State, apparently did not remove his socks during his liaisons with prostitutes). 

$20+ is a fair price for this wine.  Guess what I think about it at $15?  Sometimes, you just have to shop around for the good stuff.  And, for the record, I’m not thinking about a Spitzerian shopping spree.  Eliot, Eliot, Eliot– you’re no Berlusconi. It’s uncanny, but once caught with their hands in the cookie jar (“She said her name was Cookie”), it looks like both of these politicos went to the same source for contrition coaching.  How else to explain that funny expression, almost like a cat that is trying to keep down that bird it just swallowed. 

Burlusconi and Ruby

Spitzer and Spouse

But we have gone far afield from this NGW post.  Fun though that detour may have been, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.  And with Silvio Burlusconi as our inspiration, we turn to an Italian wine, a classic Italian pasta and if you execute these first two properly a private little Bunga-Bunga party.

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2008 ($15).  A blend of Corvina and Rondinella with some Sangiovese thrown in for good measure.  A whiff of cherry pie.  Is that a touch of plum, too?  Nah, that’s just the little voice in my head, or is that an imaginary friend?  Savory red fruit notes mixed with sumptuous ripe blackberry.  Supple tannins and just enough acidity to say this is just a beautifully balanced wine.  Is that my imaginary friend speaking again?  Perhaps.  Here’s what I say– find this and you will not be disappointed.  I’m not imagining that.  Rated **1/2

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe.  Today, we get back to that.  This is a traditional Roman dish that could only have been born in a place like Rome.  Imagine Marco Polo returning from the Orient with this strange new spice, pepper.  Imagine a local chef getting his hands on this new stuff and combining it with the traditional ingredients found in Rome– Pecorino, butter, and spaghetti.  Imagine we call this Cacio e Pepe (literally Cheese and Pepper).  I’m making this history up as I go along, but it’s plausible, no?

Plausible?  Perhaps, but actually, no.  Marco Polo was born in the 13th Century whereas it seems pepper has been around Rome since at least as early as 40 B.C.  Around 77 C.E. Pliny the Elder (I have always wanted to quote him) complained: 

It is quite surprising that the use of pepper has come so much into fashion, seeing that in other substances which we use, it is sometimes their sweetness, and sometimes their appearance that has attracted our notice; whereas, pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India! Who was the first to make trial of it as an article of food? and who, I wonder, was the man that was not content to prepare himself by hunger only for the satisfying of a greedy appetite?  Both pepper and ginger grow wild in their respective countries, and yet here we buy them by weight—just as if they were so much gold or silver.[The Natural History, 12:14]

No Cacio e Pepe for Pliny!

Romans have been eating this stuff since forever and there are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this dish.  But I enjoyed it so well, I couldn’t resist posting it up here.  The ingredients are the definition of simplicity and elegance.  Oh yeah, one more thing, skip the bread and butter unless you’re wanting to have people stare at your arse for all the wrong reasons.  

Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of coarsely grated Parmesano Reggiano (for the Parmesan bowls)
  • 16 oz. spaghetti (Fresh pasta is better.  Dried will, however do just fine.)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Preparation

Ahead of time: Prepare the Parmesan Bowls.  Place 1/3 cup of grated Parmesano to a hot nonstick pan and cook till it bubbles.  Remove from heat and when cool enough to handle peel from the nonstick pan and drape over the outside of a bowl used as a mold to create a an edible parmesan bowl.  This can also be done ahead of time.  Makes 6 bowls.

  1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil.  Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until firm but not quite al dente. Drain, reserving 2-3 cups pasta cooking water.
  2. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. 
  4. Reduce heat to low and add Pecorino Romano and pasta, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.
  5. Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.
  6. Transfer pasta to Parmesano bowls, sprinkle with some more Pecorino and serve.

Serves 4-6

© Sybarite Sauvage

Unlike the other two guys pictured on this page, the little guy in the photo at the top of this page doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  No-Guilt Wednesday (NGW) is not about compromising on quality.  It’s all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank ($15 or less), eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.

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Posted March 6, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

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