Saturday, March 22, 2008

Santa Anastacia

O/our favorite beverage store, "Wine World", publishes a weekly newsletter to inform customers of the weekly tasting table (every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,) and to share other information. This week the owner, Elizabeth, shared one of her favorite recipes and the wine she chooses to serve with the dish. The wine is "obviously" named for a dear friend ;) so I had to share it here! The owner, Elizabeth, goes into great detail to describe both the dish and the wine, and I am enthralled with the description of the wine which also describes parts of the personality of its "namesake" (in my opinion.) I hope you enjoy the following article, and if you try the recipe and/or the wine, Bon Appetit!

Wine with Food

Today's Recipe:

Santa Anastasia "Contempo" Nero D'Avola
Penne Pasta w/Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

I have been accused of being something of a "foodie". Since I have to eat anyway, I won't deny that I'd rather eat fresh, tasty food that is better for me than most prepared foods and certainly most fast foods. (I think that last one simply is misunderstood - people are just using the wrong definition of "fast"!)
I am constantly amused at the way food choices have changed. Just in my lifetime what was once considered "peasant food" is now called the "Mediterranean Diet"! Today's recipe falls into this category - a simple, hearty and tasty one-dish meal that was a staple in my ancestral home of Sicily. I remember my grandmother making it when I was a child.
This recipe is one I found years later that came very close to her version. It comes from a 1992 issue of Food and Wine. (Yes I do hold on to the good ones!) It's a great springtime meal, but with the emerging popularity of Broccoli Rabe - sometimes called "Rapini" - you can find it just about year round!
Broccoli Rabe falls into the category of "bitter greens", but don't let that worry you. It's not that bitter, and we won't be using the more bitter parts, the heavy stalks, anyway. It's rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, and is a great source of phytochemicals, thought to offer protection against cancer.
Look for bunches that are crisp, bright green and loaded with florets. If you see any yellow buds, this is an indication that it is getting ready to "seed", and therefore has passed its prime. Either keep looking, or change your menu - it's that important! My personal favorite brand is "Andy Boy" since I can usually count on excellent quality and full florets. And it's easy to spot - it comes with the stalks wrapped in pink paper.
I also prefer to use Roma brand sausage. First it's locally made so it didn't have to be frozen. Also I appreciate the consistent application of their spices, so I am confident in the flavor. I use the hot sausage - this meal works very well with the extra kick - but if you prefer yours a bit milder, by all means use the sweet version. And if you have a personal favorite sausage maker, feel free to substitute!

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb Penne Pasta (Barilla is my choice)
1 lb Italian Sausage
2 Bunches Broccoli Rabe
1&1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano Cheese
3 Large cloves of Garlic, chopped
2 Tsp Butter
¼ Cup Olive Oil
¼ Tsp Crushed Red Pepper
¼ Tsp Salt

The first thing to do is cook your sausage. Since mine usually comes in links, I remove the casing and crumble it into the pan. Brown the loose sausage - you can use a little olive oil if you like - and then set it aside. We'll get back to it in just a little bit.
Next, start heating some salted water for your pasta, and while it's coming to a boil, prepare your broccoli rabe.
If you've never cooked with this before, it's not as daunting as it might appear! Since we don't want those bitter bottom stalks, they will need to be trimmed away. The easiest way to do this is to just pull the whole bunch from the wrapper with one hand and cut the bottom part off about 2" below where the leaves start with the other.
Then place it in a bowl of cold water, swishing it around to make sure it's good and clean. If you notice any leaves that have lost their color, just remove them, but keep all the florets! Any thicker stalks could be cut in half. Now you see why you needed 2 bunches!
Okay, now we're ready! In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and then add the chopped garlic - cook over medium heat until golden.
Take the broccoli rabe from the water giving it a soft shake so you don't drip, and add it to the skillet along with the crushed red pepper and salt. Put a lid on the pan and let everything steam together for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, once your water is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente. It will be added to a hot pan later in the process, so don't overcook it! When it's just right, drain it well. Sometimes water likes to hide inside the Penne "tubes", so give it an extra shake! Set it aside for a few minutes allowing the steam to come off.
Back at the skillet, stir in the chicken stock, sausage and butter and cook over high heat until the sauce reduces slightly. This only takes about 3 minutes.
Now add the penne to the skillet and toss gently. Sprinkle half of the Parmigiano on top and toss again - this will get that cheesy goodness all through the dish!
Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese on top and ring the dinner bell! Enjoy immediately. (1.)

Now for a wine to bring this one together!
I wish you could have a bottle of my uncles' homemade wine! That was always the best! But, regulations being what they are, and the extremely limited quantities of their wine, we'll just have to make do!
Kidding aside, I do have an excellent suggestion to accompany this meal: Santa Anastasia "Contempo" Nero D'Avola. We have this wine on our shelves for $14.99.
The Nero D'Avola grape is one of the few varieties native to Sicily. It is such a deep dark purple, the color is just a few shades lighter than the black olives grown nearby. It's also a grape that many people have not discovered yet, but is certainly one that you will remember!
The intensity of the aromas is one of the first things you will notice. It has been described as "brambly... reminiscent of berries and red fruit". The structure of the wine is full-bodied and sturdy enough to work very well with both the sausage and the broccoli rabe, and the concentration of flavor is truly amazing. By contrast, the tannins are surprisingly soft, making it a perfect chioce with many dishes!
The grapes are grown at about 1,500' in the foothills of the Madonie Mountains near the north coast town of Cefalu. The vineyards benefit from Mediterranean influences, providing a soft lushness to the fruit as it ripens in the Sicilian sun. Here, the soil is rich in potassium, which may account for the exceptional balance in the finished wine.
The winery was once an Abbey, and has remained isolated and undeveloped since the monks left in the 1300's. This pristine and unspoiled backdrop was converted in the 1980's by the new owner, Francesco Leno. He is a firm believer in his authentic Mediterranean heritage and painstakingly restored many of the medieval buildings to be incorporated into the current Santa Anastasia Estate Winery. He also employs organic techniques in the making of his wines.
I hope you will try both the wine and this dish, and discover what has been known in Sicily for centuries: simple traditional food paired with wine made from native grapes is a natural!

Until next time, ciao!

(Owner of O/our favorite beverage store "Wine World" .)

1. Food and Wine, Jan, 1992, pg. 38

The wine and the recipe certainly sound yummy, I think it will have to be on O/our menu soon, with or without dear Anastacia joining U/us. ;)


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