The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Recipe: Linguine with Fresh Basil Pesto and Pomodorini

A delicious, easy recipe for very authentic pasta

Homemade-Pesto-MortarI love pasta! When I was about 12 years old, my father went to a ten-day class at a revered culinary school in Umbria to learn how to cook restaurant-worthy food for his four children. At the time, it didn’t occur to me why he was doing it, but ever after that experience, he made the most delicious meals. From as few as just the two of us to a hundred guests at a time, friends and family alike would never miss a chance to enjoy my dad’s legendary barbecues and dinners.

In particular, his greatest praise came from his specially marinated meats, which were always grilled to perfection, but above all, his extraordinary pastas garnered “Oohs” and “Ahs” from diners.

I’d sit and watch in amazement as he poured heart and soul into his pasta dishes. Each step of the process meticulously thought out, executed like a symphony, and explained in full—what he was doing and why he was doing it. While I gained a lot from his technical knowledge, what I gained most from watching my father cook was the love that he put into each dish.

Although my father seems to have an infinite repertoire of unbelievable dishes with his own little twist on each, this recipe for pasta with pesto is one he never made for us, so I dedicate it to him and promise to make it for him one day soon. Salute, Papà!


1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves

2 peeled garlic cloves

16oz. Pomodorini (Cherry Tomatoes)

2oz. freshly grated Pecorino

4oz. freshly grated Parmigiano

2tbls Pignoli (Pine Nuts)

Coarse Sea Salt

Ground Black Pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1lb Linguine (1 box)

Preparation: 30 min.

Servings: four

Pesto gets its name from the original method of pounding and grinding its ingredients in a mortar, so I suggest using one to get the best results. You can use a food processor, though.

Place the garlic cloves in the mortar with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and start to pound into a white paste.

Add the fresh basil leaves a bunch at a time and continue to pound/grind in a circular motion until a liquid paste forms.

A little at a time, add the pecorino and parmigiano in and continue to mix into a brighter green homogeneous paste

Add the Pignoli and pound or grind them in so that they break up into small pieces

Add some olive oil, a bit at a time, and mix until you reach the desired consistency

Sprinkle in some freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and put the in a medium saucepan with some olive oil.

Add a ½ a teaspoon of salt, cover and simmer on a medium flame until the tomatoes are soft.

Once soft, crush the tomatoes into a bit of a pulp with a wooden spoon, cover and remove the saucepan from the flame, letting sit to cool down while preparing the pasta.

Fill a pot with water, add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to boil, then add the pasta.

Once the pasta is ready, save ½ cup of the pasta broth and strain the pasta.

Mix the pesto into the crushed tomatoes, then add to the pasta, mixing gently yet extensively.

Add some of the pasta broth to the mix and sprinkle in some parmigiano.

Plate, serve and enjoy!

Linguine-Pesto-PomodorinoWe grow our own basil at home, so this was extra fresh and a real treat. My wife and I enjoyed this last Saturday with a wonderful Per Linda Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013, although it would also pair nicely with a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Verdicchio.

Sautéed Day Boat Scallops with a Buerre Blanc Sauce

Celebrating the farmers’ market fish folks

The author with his dinner

The author with his dinner

Some of my most cherished childhood memories involve a warm, clear ocean, spending favorite weekends in the Florida Keys diving and spearfishing with friends and family. There is nothing better than a big family dinner in the Keys using fish and lobster you caught yourself that morning. My personal favorite has to be a dinner featuring hogfish snapper. This fish has a delicate, flaky white flesh with a unique, almost lobster-like flavor. It’s impossible to find up north—living in New York City, I would do terrible things to get my hands on high quality, fresh hogfish snapper.

When I moved up to New York I quickly realized how much I missed my fresh Florida fish and shellfish. Then I discovered the fishmongers at the farmers’ market. My favorite question to ask them is “When were these scallops harvested?” The answer is consistently perfect: yesterday. The Union Square Green Market has several incredible purveyors; one of my favorites is Pura Vida Fisheries who offers fresh scallops, oysters, tuna, striped bass, swordfish, and black sea bass depending on seasonality and the fishermen’s luck. The farmers’ market folks catch the seafood themselves and simply bring it to market the very next day. This brings me to this simple, elegant scallop recipe using day boat scallops.

Sautéed Day Boat Scallops with a Buerre Blanc Sauce


One pound fresh day boat scallops, from Suffolk County Long Island

One shallot, minced

Butter, 3 tablespoons

Thyme, 3 sprigs


Salt and Pepper


In 2 batches, sauté scallops in a little butter over medium high heat for 45 to 60 seconds each side. Set aside to rest. Lower heat to medium low.

Deglaze pan with one cup neutral white wine (Champagne also works nicely).

Add half cup minced shallots, and thyme.

Reduce to half cup stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes). Turn off heat.

Whisk in cold butter one tablespoon at a time.

Serve immediately over scallops.

For the wine pairing, I would go with a balanced, complex white with nice acidity to complement the butter, but not overpower the delicate fresh scallop flavor. The Querciabella Batar 2006 would work incredibly well, and Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2012 would be equally fabulous.

Inside IWM, May 11-14, 2015: Everything from Alto Adige to Ramps

A look back at the week that was

tenuta01Summer is coming. Emery wants you to be prepared. He offers a few helpful tips on how to keep wine safe, enjoyable and cool during the hot summer months. David Berot wants you to be satiated. He offers a simple recipe for ramps, that here-and-then-gone springtime edible. Matt Di Nunzio wants you to be happy. He picks out a delicious $12 Sangiovese that you’ll want to enjoy all summer long. And our staff wants you to be informed. We gave a quick, simple tour of Trentino-Alto Adige and the regions’ wine background.

Our experts similarly blended knowledge with their love of wine. Garrett Kowalsky explored his love of big bottles and picked out a pair for you to love. David Gwo discussed Tempranillo and selected two of Spain’s best, while Francesco Vigorito focussed on Sangiovese in its ultimate expression–Montevertine Le Pergole Torte. Finally Robin Kelley O’Connor prepared for his trip to Italy by choosing a pair of classic Italian bottlings, a Prosecco and a Brunello!

Cheers to your being happy, healthy, and wise–and never, ever out of wine!

Springtime Ramps Pesto Recipe

Springtime is here–celebrate it with this simple ramps recipe

Gourmet Magazine, where this image is from, has a great piece on ramps.

Gourmet Magazine, where this image is from, has a great piece on ramps.

Ramps are a validation that spring is here. This wild “baby leek” has a wonderful mild garlicky flavor. I like to quickly sauté and sprinkle a little salt on top, but the ramp pesto recipe is delicious and pairs very well with a variety of wines. Best known as a Genovese dish, pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients. In true Italian fashion, demand the absolute best ingredients. The ramps at the farmers’ markets right now are beautiful and will only be around for a few more weeks.

Ramp Pesto:

One bunch of ramps, about 6 or 7 ounces

Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Half a cup of very high quality olive oil

Two thirds cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze of lemon


Blanche for one minute and rinse thoroughly in cold water

Blend toasted pine nuts and blanched ramps in food processor

Add cheese with salt and freshly ground pepper

Turn on food processor to low, then slowly drizzle olive oil until the texture is a smooth.

Add a small squeeze of lemon to brighten up.

Use this pesto for pastas. It’s also delicious spread on grilled bread.

I do love the Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium 2012 from Lazio as a pairing with this pesto. This broad-shouldered, full-bodied white wine is a brilliant blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Verdicchio. The winery, run by nuns and managed by Giampiero Bea, follows biodynamic practices in its viticulture. Once the grapes are crushed, the juice is fermented in concrete and aged in stainless steel. The ’12 Coenobium is complex on the nose to say the least; it’s unusual and seductive with hints of spice, honey, citrus, rosemary and a slight hint of oxidation.  It has a chewy mouthfeel full of stone fruit and subtle herbs.  Enjoy!

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum 2011

A sinfully delicious under $27 organic skin-contact wine made by nuns

WH1911-2There’s no question that wine and religion share a common history. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, fertility, and theatre, had a literal cult following, and Bacchus, the Roman version of the same god, had likewise. The Catholic Church was pivotal to the quality and development of viticulture and viniculture, and it’s apparent all over winemaking. For example, Clos du Vougeot owes its start to the hard work of Cistercian monks, evident in the wine’s precision and quality. Pope Charlemagne in the ninth century reportedly so loved the red wines made in his land that his long white beard was stained red by the wine; his wife ripped out the red grapes to plant white grape varietals instead, thus creating one of the best Chardonnay vineyards in France—Corton Charlemagne—or so goes the legend. It’s likely not true, but it’s nice to think it is.

One connection between religion and wine that’s absolutely true is the estate Monastero Suore, run the nuns of the Cistercian order in Vitorchiano, about 90 miles north of Rome in Lazio. The estate is overseen by Giampiero Bea, the son of Umbria’s eminent artisanal producer Paolo Bea, who are both well known proponents of the Italian school of non-interventionist winemaking. Monastero Suore’s wine is evidence of that influence; its eighty Cistercian sisters work the vineyards and orchards organically in this beautiful, pristine, and quiet outpost.

A gorgeous amber-orange in the glass, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum 2011 is an intriguing wine. The wine gracefully demonstrates a vivacious acidity, with subtle notes of mango, passion fruit, eucalyptus, and almonds on the mid-palate, culminating in a gorgeous mineral streak on the finish. It has a strong yet barely detectable backbone, a quality that stems from a meticulously made organic white wine. A blend of 45% Trebbiano, 35% Malvasia, and 20% Verdicchio, Ruscum is balanced, precise, and surprising. Only 4,000 bottles of this wine were made in 2011, and it delivers a massive value at less than $27.

bertot ruscum photoAlthough this food-friendly, skin-contact wine will complement lots of food, this ’11 Ruscum paired beautifully well with a mushroom risotto my wife and I enjoyed on Friday night. I used morel and royal trumpet mushrooms, along with tiny cubes of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra de Bellota, and of course plenty of aged Parmigiano Reggiano in this recipe. This was a mind-bending pairing that I didn’t want to end.

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