Saturday, September 5, 2015

Three Wine & Food Pairings with Gusto from Abruzzo #Travel #Wine

Wine & Food from Italy's Abruzzo Region 


Image result for map of abruzzo italy
For some, Abruzzo is one of the lesser known and lesser traveled Italian regions.  Abruzzo is located closer to central Italy, just east of Rome (Lazio region) on the Adriatic coast of the peninsula.  The geography of Abruzzo is mountainous, pastoral, and coastal, as it includes the Apennines, many national parks and nature preserves, as well as many beautiful beaches.  While there is so much to uncover, we decided to highlight some of Abruzzo's delightful food and wine for this month's Italian Food, Wine and Travel.

The cuisine of Abruzzo is unique due to its varied geography.  For example, in the mountainous areas, the flocks of sheep and goats that graze the pastures are the source of the meat dishes.  Here you will find game dishes that include lamb, wild boar, rabbit, hare, pork and fowl.  Along its Adriatic seashore, you will find a variety of seafood and fish dishes, such as brodetto alla vastese or fish soup.  Throughout the region, you’ll find local rustic pizzas and the typical salumi, like prosciutto and formaggi, like pecorino, along with flavorful olive oil.  

Peperoncino, or chili peppers are used often to add spice and flavor to Abruzzese food.  At times, such food spiced with peperoncino is referred to as diavoletti, or little devils.  Saffron, a flower (Crocus) grown around the Navelli area, is another important spice used for cooking in Abruzzo and is added to many dishes due to its intense color, aroma and flavor.  Abruzesse saffron is considered among the best in the world.  

Just as the cuisine of Abruzzo is vast and delicious, the region is also known to produce very good wine.  In fact, Abruzzo is the 5th most productive wine region in Italy.  Both whites and reds are produced here.  There are three, in particular, that stand out and these are the ones we tasted.    

We did a wine tasting of selections from the vineyards at Farnese Vini.  Farnese Vini is an award-winning winery in Abruzzo that has accolades both within the country and internationally.  Currently, their production is approaching 13 million bottles.  We tried three of their wines and paired them with typical Abruzzese dishes.  What a delight! 

First, we wanted to check out Villa Farnia di Farnese Pecorino 2014. Although pecorino translates to little sheep, we are not referring to the famous pecorino romano cheese.  Instead, this was a crisp, dry white that was bright and lemony, and made from the pecorino grape.  It was very floral, and I tasted flavors of green apple and pear.  This wine had a little more body than expected, which was a nice surprise.  We paired this 2014 Pecorino with Pepeta di Cozza (Mussels in Pepper Broth).  

As a lover of seafood and ease in the kitchen, mussels were a great choice.  I usually steam mussels in garlic, white wine and butter.  Simple and easy. In an attempt to make them Abruzzo style, I adapted my recipe by simply adding red chili peppers (peperoncino).

Pepeta di Cozza recipe:

4 lb of fresh mussels (or clams)
2 cups of dry white wine 
4 cloves of garlic ( chopped) 
4 shallots finely chopped
Freshly ground sea salt to taste (1/2 tsp)
Freshly ground white pepper 
2-4 whole dried chili peppers OR 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes (adjust to taste)
6 tablespoons butter OR 3 tsp virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • Rinse and scrub mussels under cold water.
  • In a large pot, combine the wine, shallots, garlic, and salt.
  • Simmer 5 minutes on medium heat.
  • Add mussels, cover, and increase heat to high.
  • Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in herbs and butter.
  • Remove from heat.  Discard any mussels that do not open.
  • Garnish with parsley
  • Serve with fresh crusty bread
  • Serve immediately.
I like garlic, so I make garlic bread to accompany the mussels.  The bread is great for dipping!

Cooking time: 25 minutes  Serves 4

Next, we tasted the Villa Farnia Di Farnese 2013 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.  Trebbiano is made from the trebbiano grape and smells of light spices, pear and melon.  The Trebbiano also has light notes of lemon and would pair well with citrusy seafood and pasta.  Once again, geography plays a role in the production of wines from Abruzzo.  The coastal breezes from the Adriatic sea provides salinity for the wines and it was noticable in each of the wines I tasted, including this one. The food pairing of choice was Aragosta all Grilia or grilled lobster.  The recipes that we came across for grilled lobster were all basically the same. We grill regularly, so this recipe was very simple.  We even added clams! 

Aragosta all Grilia

  • 2-4 lobster tails 
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Directions
Split or butterfly the lobster tails, shell and all, from head to tail with a heavy knife. Then drizzle the insides with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and let it marinate for just a few minutes.

Grill the lobster tales on one side, cut side down, for 5 minutes, then add a bit more marinade and grill for another 5 minutes. The exact timing will depend, of course, on the size of your lobster; for doneness, check to see that the tail flesh is opaque and quite firm to the touch.


Now serve the lobster in its shell, with a bit more marinade drizzled on top. With this trebbiano, this just melted in my mouth!

Our tertiary wine was the classic Villa Farnia di Farnese 2012 Montelpuciano d’AbruzzoThis particular wine is actually the most notable wine in Abruzzo.  However, a distinction should be made, as it is often confused with the town of the same name in Montelcino, Tuscany. The name of this wine, Montelpuciano d'Abruzzo, refers to the grape used in making this Abruzzese wine.  Whereas, Montelpulciano, when used at the end of the name, refers to the hill town in Montelcino, in neighboring Tuscany, where Vino Nobile (Vino Nobile di Montelpuciano) is produced from the sangiovese grape.  

So, we paired the Villa Farnia di Farnese 2012 with Ragu Di Agnello (Lamb).  We needed a heartier wine for a hearty meal.  This wine was full-bodied, yet not overpowering.  It was velvety smooth, with tastes of ripe plum and dark berries.  It was well balanced and was a nice accent for the meat.  It was a great match!

There are other ways to make the Ragu Di Agnello, but we tried this recipe from Food & Wine:


*Note: For really authentic Abruzzese cuisine, saffron may be also be added to any of the aforementioned dishes. 

During my short excursion, it was clear that typical food and wine from Abruzzo have gusto!  Of the three, the trebbiano was my favorite.  Ever tried trebbiano d'Abruzzo?  What are your thoughts regarding food and wines from this Italian region?

Our exploration of the Abruzzo doesn't stop here....

Follow along the Abruzzo journey with my other Abruzzi fans and make sure to join us next month on October 3rd as we will be covering the region of Umbria.  You can also chat with us live this Saturday morning at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!

Vino Travels – The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Terramane DOCG with Cerelli Spinozzi
Rockin' Red Blog - The Natural Wonders of Abruzzo
Italophilia - American in Abruzzo
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - Abruzzo Comfort Food & Wine
Cooking Chat - Pizza Pairing: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo for #ItalianFWT
The Wining Hour - 3 Wine & Food Pairings with Gusto from Abruzzo
Food Wine Click - Aruzzo 1st Course: Farro and Butternut Squash Soup with Passerina
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Polpi in Purgatorio
Enofylz Wine Blog - Grilled Lamb Lollipops with Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Tralcetto

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