Archive for the ‘Italy’Category

Warm wind makes fine Letrari wines in Vallagarina

Letrari vineyards in Isera
Every afternoon at 3 p.m., warm air sweeps north from Lake Garda into the Vallagarina, the low hills around Trentino’s southern portion of the Adige River. Vineyard owners call it “L’Ora,” or “the hour,” and swear that you could set a clock by it. All through the summer, this steady breeze provides warmth and aeration to the grapes. It drives up the sugar concentration and sweeps away potential fungal infections. The warm, dry wind makes the Vallagarina one of the best places in Italy to grow heat-loving grape varieties. The big reds from Bordeaux flourish here. So do the classic grapes of sparkling wine: chardonnay and pinot noir.

Lucia LetrariThe Letrari family has been making wine in Italy’s Trentino region for the last few centuries. The modern Letrari winery (www.letrari.it) was founded in 1976 by Leonello Letrari and his wife Maria Vittoria on the family lands in Borgetto all’Adige. Daughter Lucia (right) graduated from the region’s prestigious Institute of Agriculture and Enology in San Michele al Adige in 1987. She now runs the family winery, and her son is already working at her side.

Casa del Vino

The Letrari tasting room is a bit off the beaten path. As a result, Lucia often holds business meetings at the Casa del Vino della Vallagarina (Piazza San Vincenzo, 1, Isera: tel. +39 (0) 464 486 057; www.casadelvino.info).

Casa del Vino della Vallagarina Part restaurant, part enoteca, part wine shop, the Casa del Vino is an essential stop for a wine tourist. It is in the heart of the mountain village on the wine route known as the Strada del vino e dei sapori del Trentino (www.tastetrentino.it). It has a few hotel rooms starting at 90€ per night.

Impressive sparkling wines

Letrari produces a dizzying array of wines, but Leonello was a pioneer in making sparkling wines. The family still prides itself on sparkling wines made from high altitude chardonnay and pinot noir.

The very impressive Brut Riserva—60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay—was surprisingly good with a beef carpaccio topped with paper-thin swirls of sweet golden apple. The wine spends a minimum of 48 months on the lees. That produces a creamy head, notes of toasted bread, and a lingering taste of fruit. The prickliness of the tiny bubbles was a nice counterpoint to the raw beef. That wine, however, was only a warm-up for Letrari’s Riserva del Fondatore. This deluxe wine spends 96 months in contact with the yeast, developing a complexity comparable to high-end Champagne.

Letrari lunch canderli Letrari’s Dosaggio Zero is made without adding sweetness for the second fermentation. Tart and dry, it has a delicate apple-pear fruitiness. It mated nicely with a plate of canderli, breadcrumb dumplings laden with local herbs and served with cheese fondue. The yeastiness is less pronounced, since it only spends 24 months on the lees. The tart delicacy makes it perfect for pairing with cheeses and shellfish. With just a hint of brassiness like rice wine, it would be good with sushi. It’s also great this time of year as a picnic wine.

27

06 2016

Grigoletti makes superb wines a family affair

Grigoletti vineyards in Nomi, Italy
Slender and willowy, Bruno Grigoletti reaches his big hands into the canopy of a grape pergola and starts ripping out the extra foliage. In his late 70s, he works at a pace that would exhaust a man a third his age. Bruno manages a dozen family vineyards. They total about 15 acres (6 ha) in and around the commune of Nomi on the west bank of the Adige river, 9 miles (15 km) south of Trento. Some of the heat-loving varieties grow at the edge of the village in the alluvial soils of the Adige. But the most striking wines come from steep vineyard plots on the limestone hills behind the village.

Grigoletti brunoBruno prunes the white grapes—mostly pinot grigio, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc—three times across the summer. He then cuts out foliage a few weeks before harvest to improve air circulation and maximize sun exposure. Some special plots of white grapes and all the red grapes—merlot, marzemino, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and schiava—get an extra pruning across the summer to keep their yields in check.

Although this end of the Adige valley lies far north in Italy, the southern end is strongly influenced by Lake Garda. The lake effect makes it warm enough to raise lemons and olives. A warm wind siphons up the valley, extending the growing season around Nomi and providing warmth and moisture to go with the intense summer sunlight. Vineyard managers work hard to keep yields down and acids and sugar up.

Vineyard management is just the beginning. Azienda Agricola Grigoletti is a true family affair. Bruno commands the vineyards, and his son Carmelo makes the wine and runs the cellars. Marica, Carmelo’s wife, runs the tasting room and sales. They produce about 50,000 bottles per year of a dozen wines. Ten are table wines and two are sweet wines they call their “Meditation” series.

Grigoletti winery signI can heartily recommend them all. But I confess a special affection for Marzemino and for the four “selection” wines. Marzemino is a native grape, probably an offspring of Teroldego. It’s best known outside the region through a reference in the opera Don Giovanni. The rake calls for a glass just before he is cast into hell. (The librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, probably drank Marzemino when he grew up a few miles away.)

Most of Marzemino Trentino D.O.C. that I tasted at the big Trentino tasting in May (Mostra Vini) were an almost opaque dark plum color with a gentle warmth and very little tannin or acid. Grigoletti’s version is a cut above. It shows pronounced red fruit on the nose and a dried fruit aftertaste that’s very pleasant with food.

At the moment, North Americans must visit Italy to try these wines. But if Grigoletti breaks into distribution on this side of the Atlantic, the four “selection” wines will lead the way. They stand on their own with anything similar in the world.

L’OPERA

L’Opera chardonnay (9€ at the winery) comes from a mountainside vineyard where the vines are all at least 25 years old. Most of the soil is dolomitic limestone with a thin covering of topsoil, but part of the vineyard overlays a band of gravel. The grapes are soft-pressed and the juice is fermented in stainless tanks. The wine rests on the lees (with regular stirring) for six months. L’Opera is never touched by oak, but the influence of the lees and and high mineral content of the soil gives it an intensity and backbone usually associated with barrel aging. This is a chardonnay with pronounced fruit (golden apples more than pineapple or banana), a honey-like viscosity. and a well-defined structure. It mates well with ocean fish and mild young cheeses.

RETIKO

Retiko (11€) is Grigoletti’s complexly flavored white blend—70% chardonnay, 30% sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc is very aromatic in this part of Trentino, almost mimicking riesling and gewürztraminer in its intensity, though the flavor is much more like lychee. Carmelo ferments the wine directly in large barrels made of French acacia (black locust). That gives the developing wine access to oxygen without picking up the vanilla and other flavors from oak. He leaves it on the lees for another five months (with regular battonage) and then rests the wine in bottles six months before release. It’s clearly a sister wine to L’Opera, but with a more sprightly personality and a prickly acidity that makes it a good complement to veal carpaccio.

MERLOT ANTICA VIGNA

Grigoletti makes Merlot Antico Vigna (13€) from vines that are 60 or more years old. During the harsh economic times after World War II, merlot was “the family bread.” In those years, the Grigolettis overcropped the grape. But they have narrowed the historic pergolas and have retrained many old vines to wire. That drastically reduces yields and concentrates flavor and sugar. Carmelo makes a simpler merlot for ready drinking. But the grapes from the old vines are fermented in wood, then spend six months in French oak barrique, and two years in the bottle. The resulting wine tastes of cherries and bramble fruits with a pronounced spiciness. It is merlot in a very Trentino style—warm and round and slippery in the mouth due to soft tannins. Drink with a country salami, grilled lamb, or aged cheese.

GONZALIER

Carmelo Grigoletti with a magnum of Gonzalier Gonzalier (16€) is Grigoletti’s meritage. It contains 50% merlot, 25% each cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. They harvest most of the grapes a month later than the rest of the family vineyards. That is always tricky here, since they run the risk of rain. Gonzalier is fermented in oak and aged in a mix of oak and cherry barrels. Vineyard management is key, and the wine displays none of the green pepper aromas common in unripe Trentino cabernet. Carmelo has elected to make Gonzalier velvety and fruity with just a hint of vanilla and spice, and has kept the alcohol level to 14 percent. Every few years, he will blend three vintages to create magnums, available only at the winery for 65€.

Grigoletti welcomes visitors to the tasting room and store at Via Garibaldi, 12 in Nomi Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call them at (011-34) 0464 834 215 or visit the website at www.grigoletti.com.

18

06 2016

Hearty Trentino dishes complement the wines

chef in Trento at Mostra Vini
If you’re going to spend all morning tasting 128 wines, you really need some hearty food to follow up. The Trento cuisine is a fascinating blend of Italian and Germanic foodways, and it’s well suited to the regional wines. After we sampled our way through the wines, most of us had absorbed enough alcohol, even without swallowing, that we really needed a good meal. The Trentino wine consortium made sure we got it!

We started with a glass of light white wine made from the Incrocio Manzoni Bianco grape. It’s part of a group named for professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968), who experimented with crossing a number of grapes during the 1920s and 1930s at Italy’s oldest school of oenology in Conegliano, north of Venice. The bianco cross of riesling and pinot bianco (pinot blanc to French speakers) does quite well in cold climate, high altitude vineyards like Trentino’s. In fact, it’s often too vigorous and has to be aggressively pruned to keep from overcropping. A fairly delicate wine, it has just enough astringency to clear the palate before a meal.

Mostra Vini del Trentino lunch of braised veal cheeksThe meal was a humble feast of straightforward dishes typical of the region. We started with a red wine risotto—a treat when it’s made with the local Teroldego red and the local grating cheese—before moving on to braised veal cheeks with roasted potatoes (right) and, for dessert, a beautiful apple strudel.

The local grating cheese, Trentingrana DOP, is made in a part of the province that falls within the delimited region for Grana Padano DOP cheese, but it has the name “Trentino” prominently stamped in the form that makes the big wheels. Since it’s hard to find in the U.S., substitute a 24-month Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the same effect.

Note that the chef stirred the risotto vigorously (see photo at top of post), almost folding the mixture as it cooked. The recipe below follows the traditional way to make risotto—about a half hour of stirring—though you could also use our pressure cooker method (see this post: http://hungrytravelers.com/learning-under-pressure/) by reducing the volume of liquid to about twice the volume of rice. Note that the alcohol and the tannins in red wine affect the cooking time, making it about 25 percent longer than using mostly broth and a white wine. But the extra time is worth it for the perfect melding of red wine and aged cheese with the creamy mouth feel of the dish.

Mostralunch red wine risotto

RED WINE RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Trentingrana (see above)

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of the red wine, reserving the remainder.. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat so wine-broth is hot but not simmering.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot (a Dutch oven works well) over medium-low heat. Add shallots and and cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft and translucent. Add rice and 2 tablespoons butter and stir to coat.

Stir in the reserved half cup of wine and cook over medium heat, stirring until wine is absorbed. Stir in a half cup of the hot wine broth and adjust heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add more wine broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It will take 25-30 minutes for nearly all the liquid to be absorbed. At this point, the rice should be creamy and glistening with a starch coating but still be al dente when sampled.
Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and remove from heat.

Remove pot from heat and cover to let rest about two minutes before serving in shallow bowls. Pass extra grated cheese.

10

06 2016

Trentino shows off its superb wines at Mostra Vini

Tasting at Mostra Vini del Trentino
The wine district of Trentino is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets—at least from Americans. That translates into real bargains on some outstanding wines from unfamiliar producers. Trentino is the southern half of the region of Trentino-Alto Adige east of Lombardy and west of the Veneto. To help you place it, the wine district more or less corresponds to the Trento province in the map below.

Trentino Alto Adige map With high-altitude vineyards on a mix of dolomitic limestone and volcanic porphyry, the area produces startlingly good sparkling wines in the style of Champagne, highly aromatic white wines similar to the style of Alsace, and some fascinating local reds that many Americans have never heard of. Napoleon rolled through in the early 19th century, and many chardonnay, merlot, cabernet, and pinot noir vineyards date from that era. While the two big cooperatives of Cavit and Mezzacorona also produce daunting quantities of bargain-priced pinot grigio for the North American market, some Trentino wineries also make very sophisticated and delicious wines from the same grape.

Mostra logo I had the pleasure of attending the 79th edition of the Mostra Vini del Trentino, which translates loosely as Trentino Wine Tasting. Some 10,000 people showed up over the four days to file through one of the great late medieval palaces in central Trento to sample a selection of 128 excellent wines from the region. The general public paid 5 euros for three glasses of the “basic” wines, 10 euros for three glasses of the reserve wines. As always, there were a slew of other events, from wine-themed movies to lectures to workshops to special dinners. Before the event opened to the public, the Trentino wine consortium (www.vinideltrentino.com/ITA/32/Consorzio.html) turned a dozen of us wine journalists loose to sample and take notes. Trentino is better known in Europe than in the U.S., so I was the only American present. With few exceptions, we all worked our way through the complete selection—although I declined some of the dessert wines because my palate was exhausted.

In the next several posts, I’ll be writing about some of those wines, including some made from the unusual grapes native to the region and several where I had a chance to visit the wineries. The Trentino district is actually fairly small, and has an active program that encourages winery visits. In most of Italy, you need to make advance reservations. Along Trentino’s Strade del Vino, you can simply stop by to taste and purchase.

Trento is a perfect base for touring and is a truly beautiful city that’s easy to walk. It has shuttled back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries, so the architecture is as much Germanic as Italian. The Dolomite Alps hover in the background just outside the city, making the region a favorite for mountain bikers. It was the site of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that led to the Counter Reformation. Indeed, it’s been a center of humanistic learning ever since. Here’s a shot of the main square.

Trento center square

02

06 2016

Frescobaldi celebrates its Tuscan estates

Lamberto Frescobaldi
There’s poetry in the Frescobaldi soul, and I don’t just write that because I like so many of the family’s wines. Back in the 13th century, poet Dino Frescobaldi helped his exiled friend Dante Alighieri recover the first seven books of the Divine Comedy, enabling him to complete one of the great masterpieces of world literature. About that same time, the Frescobaldi family also started to focus on making wine in the Tuscan countryside. A couple of years ago, Lamberto Frescobaldi took over the leadership of the family business, and since he has a son at college in Rhode Island, the chief often passes through Boston. When he was here in March, we had a chance to sit down and taste some current releases and talk about new directions he’s taking the company.

Lamberto is a businessman with the soul of a poet and the skills of a winemaker. Since he took the helm, the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi has quietly pivoted from emphasizing the 700 years of winemaking experience behind the entire portfolio to playing up the character of the six individual Tuscan estates that are part of the Frescobaldi Toscano branch of the family company. (They also produce Super Tuscans called Masseto and Ornallaia in Bolghieri, as well as Attems pinot grigios and sauvignon blancs in the sandy eastern hills of Friuli.)
Pomino Benefizio Riserva Frescobaldi The newest bottlings from the Tuscan vineyards play up the vineyard name over the Frescobaldi moniker.

Since we were conversing as well as tasting, we kept to just four bottles. The first was my favorite Italian chardonnay, Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2013. The Pomino estate in the northeast corner of Tuscany is high in the hills. The family has been growing chardonnay here since 1855, first winning a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Since 1973, the estate has been making this barrel-fermented white from a single vineyard at 700 meters. For an Italian wine, it’s very Burgundian—rich and luscious with very gentle French oak. It is a truly voluptuous white that makes a perfect pairing with intensely flavored fish, strong aged cheese, and light veal dishes. It retails around $43.

Frescobaldi Montesodi Although Castelo di Nipozzano is well within the Chianti district, the Montesodi 2012 wine is technically a Tuscan IGT because it is made from nothing but Sangiovese grown in the limestone and clay soil of the Montesodi vineyard at 400 meters. Starting with the 2012 vintage, the wine spends 18 months aging in large (30hl) French and Austrian oak casks. This bottle had been opened about two hours before we sat down, so the aeration had taken the edge off its young tannins without taking anything away from the complex nose. This is possibly the purest example of northern Tuscan sangiovese on the market. It displays strong notes of tart cherries, brick, and a bit of oregano and thyme. Although usually drunk at a meal with red meats, Montesodi would be spectacular with roast chicken–or even better, roast duck or pheasant. Retail is about $43.

Frescobaldi Giramonte 2012 Tenuta de Castiglioni is the oldest of the Frescobaldi estates, but the impressive Giramonte cru—a merlot wine with some sangiovese—has only been made since 1999. It’s a synthesis of flavors that the Frescobaldi winemakers pioneered when they started planting Bordeaux varietals in Tuscany in the 1850s. When I drink Giramonte, I feel like I’m getting both the full lushness of a ripe merlot (a hint of mint and mushroom) with the spice and leather of good sangiovese. We drank an old-style Giramonte 2009, which had an 88 percent merlot content. Lamberto explained that they pick the merlot in three stages, starting when it has only 10-10.5 degrees of sugar. The remaining grapes are allowed to mature more slowly. It’s a silky, complicated red that drinks nicely with red meats—or after-dinner philosophy. The 2009 is still in the market at around $108-$120, though the 2012 is available at about the same price.

Frescobaldi Mormoreto 2012 We finally capped off our tasting with Mormoreto, a Bordeaux-style blend from the Nipozzano estate. The Mormoreto vineyard was planted in 1976 with Frescobaldi vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot first established here in the 1850s. The vineyard is showing great maturity, and the 2012 is truly opulent—with a strong hint of black cherries, blackberries, and respberries. The scorching heat of the 2012 summer was clearly well-balanced by cool nights, as the wine has intense aromatics. The wine spent two years in small oak casks before bottling, and vanilla notes are still pronounced until it’s well-aerated. A large, full wine with all the chest-beating power of a Bordeaux blend, Mormoreto has a lot more finesse than many of Super Tuscans. I know by experience that the elegance becomes more pronounced after a few extra years of cellaring. Retail is around $65.

16

04 2016

Lonely Planet captures taste of place

From the Source Thailand and Italy from Lonely Planet
We’ve always believed that one of the best ways to get to know people is to eat at their table. Lonely Planet, the erstwhile backpacker guidebook series that has been heading steadily upmarket since it changed ownership in 2013, must agree.

Last month Lonely Planet (under NC2 Media) launched the first of a projected large line of books about different cuisines. Called “From the Source,” they pair a writer and a photographer to chronicle the flavors of a country through heavily illustrated recipes for regional dishes.

The first two volumes tackle the cuisines of Thailand and Italy, which is a pretty tall order. The recipes are given in both metric and U.S. measure, and they are intricately detailed. In the Thai book, this means delineating every spice that goes into a particular curry. In the Italy book, it often means detailed descriptions of technique, complete with explanatory photographs. (The primer on making gnocchi is reason enough to buy the book.)

Each recipe is introduced with a one-page description of the dish, how it fits into the national cuisine, and who supplied the recipe (everyone from home cooks to esteemed chefs). These books are the next best thing to being there—letting you preview a place before you go or attempt to bring the taste of travel back home.

From the Source – Thailand: Thailand’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best and From the Source – Italy: Italy’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best are both available at the Lonely Planet online bookstore (shop.lonelyplanet.com), or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They list for $24.99.

Better yet, buy it at your local independent bookstore. Ours is Harvard Book Store (harvard.com), and it has both titles. What’s yours?

09

10 2015

Franciacorta: effervescent joy from Italy

Franciacorta rose with lemon risotto and insalata caprese Contrary to common usage, there’s nothing like real Champagne, the sparkling wine made in a delimited area in France. We’d suggest that there is also nothing like Franciacorta, the elegant and more affordable sparkling wine made in the Lombardy countryside an hour east of Milan. In fact, that city’s fashionistas have been drinking a lot of Franciacorta for the last several days during Milan Fashion Week.

The district has been growing grapes at least since the 16th century under the aegis of the region’s monasteries. (The name of the region indicates a region of monasteries not subject to ducal taxes.) Serious spumante production is much more recent, dating from the years after World War II, and the big players are industrialists, not monks.

That said, Franciacorta did almost everything right from the start, and won DOCG status (Italy’s top quality designation) before any other sparkling wine in Italy, including Prosecco DOCG. The grapes are a familiar bunch to Champagne lovers: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc. Secondary fermentation is carried out in the bottle in what the Italians call metodo classico and the rest of the world calls méthode champenoise. The chief advantage is that the wine develops on the lees, gaining a yeasty complexity that bulk carbonation cannot impart.

The DOCG regulations recognize two styles and three aging designations, each of which can be made with varying residual sugar ranging from brut to demi-sec. The Non-Vintage must be made of chardonnay and/or pinot noir (with up to half pinot blanc) and be aged at least 18 months. Sàten is a blanc-de-blancs style made with only white grapes, of which chandonnay must constitute more than half; it’s aged a minimum of 24 months. Rosé is made with chardonnay and pinot blanc with a minimum of 25 percent pinot noir to give it the desired color. Millesimato is a vintage Franciacorta in either style and indicates that at least 85 percent of the wine came from a specified quality vintage and has been aged a minimum of 30 months. A riserva is a vintage-dated Sàten or Rosé aged at least 60 months.

The Sàten style is something of a misnomer, since silkiness is characteristic of all good Franciacortas, which typically sell at retail for $20-$40, except for a few rare riservas. Personally, we like the Rosé style, since the pinot noir gives it a little fruitiness and extra structure. We popped a 2010 Millesimato Fratelli Berlucchi Rosé (fratelliberlucchi.it/) for the meal shown above: lemon risotto (Franciacorta is splendid paired with the acidity of the risotto) and a plate of our final garden tomatoes in an insalata caprese.

We expect to be drinking even more Franciacorta as the holiday season approaches.

Salute!

26

09 2015

Tortellini in brodo is a Modena treat

tortellini en brodo at Hotel Ristorante Pizzeria Parco in Palagano
Before I visited Modena, I kept seeing references to the city as the home of stuffed pasta. It made little sense to me, but when I arrived, I discovered that the signature pasta of the region are those diminutive stuffed crowns known as tortellini. Tortelloni and tortellini(They also serve tortelloni, which are much bigger and go better with tomato sauce.) Specifically, the classic dish of Modena is tortellini in brodo: the little pastas served in a strong chicken broth. Every home cook has a family recipe for the broth—and most people just go to the market and buy terrific fresh tortellini from local producers like Doremilia (www.doremilia.it).

I got a chance to see Doremilia’s pasta factory in the hill village of Monchio di Palagano, about 45 minutes west of Modena. Alas, because I couldn’t risk trying to bring a fresh meat product back to the U.S., I wasn’t able to bring home any of the splendid, handmade tortellini. But I did have lunch with one of the owners at a wonderful restaurant in the larger hill village of Palagano, Hotel Ristorante Pizzeria Parco (Via Aravechhia, 27, +39 333 594 8124, www.hotelristoranteparco.it), where we proceeded to enjoy some tortellini in brodo as one of several courses. I recommend you do the same if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Palagano sits on the Dragone river in the foothills of the Appenines, and the area is crisscrossed with scenic hiking and cycling trails. It’s also well within the district for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, so you get lots of great flavors with the natural views.

chef Tagliazucchi Chef Vittorio Tagliazucchi did Doremilia proud, serving a special batch of the tortellini that had been made with 36-month-old Parmigiano Reggiano in a clarified, very intense roasted chicken broth. While I couldn’t bring any of the products home, I did manage to pick the chef’s brain about his broth and got Massimo Ceci, the pasta company owner, to give me a rough idea of how to make the tortellini filling. It took a little practice, but here’s a fairly authentic tortellini in brodo to make at home.

TORTELLINI IN BRODO

Makes 6-8 servings

Tortellini filling
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces lean ground pork
2 ounces prosciutto, finely diced
2 ounces mortadella, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 large egg

In a large sauté pan, heat butter and oil over high heat. Add ground pork and lightly brown, breaking up pieces with a spatula. Add diced prosciutto and mortadella and continue cooking a few minutes, stirring to mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add nutmeg and black pepper to meat mixture and process with steel blade in food processor until the mixture is very finely ground (about 2 minutes). Add grated cheese and process about 30 seconds until mixture is well blended. Add egg and process until smooth.

Pasta
2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading area
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Place flour in a heap on the counter and make a depression in the middle. Crack eggs into the depression and add oil and salt. Using a long-tined cooking fork, stir the flour in a folding motion until eggs and oil are absorbed into a sticky dough. Knead for 3-4 minutes, using extra flour as necessary to keep from sticking. When ball has texture of an earlobe, divide into eight pieces.

To make tortellini, roll a ball of dough out one notch thinner than you would for fettucine.

Lay out flat dough on counter and using a knife or rolling cutter, cut into 2-inch (about 5cm) squares.

Place a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon of filling mixture in the center of each square.

Make tortellini by folding pasta corner to corner to form a triangle and pinch edges to seal in filling.With one corner pointing up, roll bottom up one-half turn. Using tip of little finger in the middle, fold over one corner. Then fold over the other, tucking point underneath into center area. Remove little finger and pinch to make sure ends stick. Here’s a really good video of the process on YouTube.

Set tortellini aside and cover with dish towel to keep from drying out. Repeat process until all the pasta is used up. If any filling is left over, freeze for another day.

For broth
3 pounds (1.5kg) chicken necks, backs, and wings
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups water

serving tortellini en brodo Set oven to 450°F and arrange chicken parts in shallow pan. Roast 30 minutes until browned.

In stock pot, place roasted chicken pieces and remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and lower temperature to simmer. Cover and simmer 2 hours. Let cool and strain, discarding solids.

To serve, boil tortellini in salted water for about 10 minutes or until done to taste. Heat broth separately. Spoon tortellini into bowl and spoon broth over. Pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle on top.

18

04 2015

Why Parmigiano Reggiano is king

Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano
The king of Italian cheeses is Parmigiano Reggiano, which is head and shoulders above the various imitators sold as “parmesan” in the U.S. and Canada.

2-cows I had always wondered why the D.O.P. product was so clearly superior, and a visit to Caseificio Poggioli (+39 059 783 155, http://poggiolicoopcasearia.it/en/) on the Via Montanara in Spilimberto outside Modena helped me understand. The new €6 million facility is a cooperative of four dairy farmers of Modena province and was built, partly with public financing, after the May 2012 earthquake that destroyed so many of the region’s cheese factories and aging warehouses. Yet to be tested by seismic events, the facility is equipped with state-of-the-art controls for the time-honored process of making Parmigiano Reggiano.

3 - bales of hay Under the D.O.P. regulations, all the milk must come from herds within a prescribed geographic area in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Mantua on the right bank of the Po river, and Bologna on the left bank of the Reno river. The rolling plains between the rivers are covered in rich grasslands, and all the feed for the cattle, both green pasturage and stored hay, must also come from the region. The cattle are not allowed to eat silage because—unlike most other Italian grating cheeses, such as Grana Padano—Parmigiano Reggiano is not pasteurized.

4-fresh curd In many ways, the cheese production proceeds as it always has. Milk from the evening milking is placed in shallow steel trays overnight and is partially skimmed in the morning before being placed into copper-lined cauldrons with an inverted bell shape. It is topped with whole milk from the morning milking to bring the volume up to 1,100 liters. Rennet is added and the mixture is heated to promote coagulation of the proteins. The new equipment at Poggioli stirs the curd, allowing the factory to make a lot of cheese with very few cheesemakers. When the cheese reaches a texture determined by the cheesemaker, he or she will cut the curd in half. Each piece will be cradled in a linen cloth and lifted from the whey.

Fresh curd begins its transformation into Parmigiano Reggiano The bulbous masses go on a line to drain and be transported to another room, where each one is lifted into a plastic form. Each form has a band that imprints the place and date and numbers each wheel separately. After sitting in a seawater bath for about three weeks, the wheels are cleaned and dried and placed on wooden shelves to begin aging.

6-cutting By regulation the cheese must age for at least 12 months. In practice, Parmigiano Reggiano is rarely sold until it is at least 24-30 months old. At that stage, the cheese begins to develop protein crystals that give it a slight crunch. As it continues to age, the umami flavor becomes ever more pronounced. At 36 months, most wheels begin their decline as they become too dry.

From just four farms, Poggioli makes 18,000 wheels of cheese per year, which is a lot of sprinkles on top of pasta. The aging rooms contain more than 50,000 wheels at a time. The photo below shows just one row of one room of the warehouse. When the last earthquake hit, wheels went flying off the shelves. If another big one strikes, they should stay put, thanks to giant shock absorbers.

The cheeses from Poggioli are exquisite. You can buy them by the piece at the factory in sizes from half-kilo chunks to entire wheels. It’s also available at the public market in Modena.

aging Parmigiano Reggiano in Poggioli

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04 2015

Pomodorina belies canned tomato image

Spaghetti with Pomodorina and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese Pomodorina is tomato sauce rethought, and it’s my most unexpected find on a recent research trip to Modena. We’ve already written about “What to buy in an Italian grocery store,” but here’s a product I’d definitely add.

Pomodorina has been the best-selling product of one of Italy’s best food factories, Menù, since it was introduced in 1967. It’s made only during the roughly six-week tomato harvest season and combines freshly harvested and cooked tomatoes with celery, carrots, onions, fresh basil, and some olive oil. Menù sells it as a base ingredient for sauces, but I discovered that some restaurants consider it good enough to sauce pasta on its own. That’s spaghetti sauced with Pomodorina above, and it was delicious.

Pomodorina sauce can Menù (http://en.menu.it/) is based in Medollo near Modena and launched as a salami factory in 1932. In 1941, the company branched out to make a ragù meat sauce and moved into a variety of ready-to-eat foods for the catering industry by the mid-1950s. Today it sells more than 450 items from its catalog to more than 30,000 customers that range from small catering companies and restaurants to large institutions like school systems, corporate cafeterias, and restaurant chains. Pomodorina is shipped to the U.S. for the food trade but not for retail sale. But in Italy, home cooks can have it too. You’ll find Pomodorina on the shelves of supermarkets, sometimes in the can (pictured here) and sometimes in a glass jar holding 750 milliliters, or about 28 fluid ounces.

I brought home a can and one night when we were in a hurry for dinner, I heated up the contents with absolutely no additions, tossed in some freshly cooked pasta, and served (as above) with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It was good enough that I’d serve it to company.

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04 2015