Arguably, two of the most important facets of life in Tuscany are wine and food. Now, as a friend of mine often says, “there is always an argument in Italy”. However, few would dispute this point.
While I often write about special wines, the culture I refer to above relies on, if not demands, simple foods and wines suitable to frequent consumption. The genesis of Tuscan cuisine has its roots in peasantry. The subjects of this article reflect that culture.
Pasta e Ceci
Despite the fact that Pasta e Ceci has its roots in the South of Italy, I find it so appealing and the perfect partner to a solid Chianti Classico. Perhaps my version relies on more ingredients than normal for this dish, but the results are worth it.
1 pound Orecchiette
2 cans Chickpeas
1/2 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
2 ounces guanciale
2 cloves garlic
8-10 ounces chicken stock
In a small frying pan, warm a bit of extra virgin olive oil and “toast” the bread crumbs until they are golden brown – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat immediately once they obtain some color. Allow to cool and set aside in a small serving bowl. The breadcrumbs serve as the “cheese” for this dish.
In a separate pan, slowly render the guanciale over low heat so as to extract the fat without burning it. After 5-6 minutes, add the garlic and soften.
Once the garlic is aromatic, rinse and drain the chickpeas and add to the frying pan. Then add about half the chicken stock and raise the flame to medium low. Simmer to allow the chickpeas to soften. After about 10 minutes, use a potato masher to crush about 70% of the chickpeas and leave the rest whole.
After mashing the chickpeas, add the remainder of the stock and lower the flame to low. If you do this in advance (you surely can) then turn off the flame until you’re ready to cook the pasta. You’re basically done at this point. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining and add to the chickpeas if they are too dry. Toss the pasta into the pan and serve. Pass the toasted breadcrumbs at the table.
With this dish, we tried an interesting new wine. What first seemed like a simple Chianti Classico Riserva turned into a bit of a mystery. When I pulled the cork, it was stamped with “Cecchi“. Hmmm….I immediately reached out to Andrea Cecchi and he confirmed that the wine was special bottling done for the owner of one of their US Importers.
The 2016 Palazzo Nuovo Chianti Classico Riserva is a dark ruby in the glass with a slight orange hue. Without decanting, the wine showed expressive aromas of black cherry, cured meats and fennel seed. At first, the palate was a bit lean but after about 45 minutes it plumped up nicely. In retrospect, a decant would help. Flavors echo the nose with freshness and juiciness. This drinks more like a good Classico than a Riserva, but at the price, I can’t complain much about that. 87 points. $19. Find this wine and Support Tuscan Vines.
If you decide to try this wine, I’d like to hear what you think about it. Reach me on Twitter or leave a comment on this post.