Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive! #WinePW

Resolutions a Chore? Bah!
Losing weight, eating healthier, being a more courteous driver (a multi-year favorite of mine) blah blah blah… Why can’t resolutions be fun? My 2015 resolution started in late 2014 and will likely continue well into 2016, and I’m having fun with it.  Maybe you’ll join me?

Does this look like a chore to you? I didn't think so!

Does this look like a chore to you? I didn’t think so!

Resolution: Learn Italy in depth through a leisurely tour, studying the food and wine region by region.

In our recent travels, we have learned how fiercely “local” Italian culture is, with a great deal of pride in using products from the region. Even to the point of avoiding products from the next region, perhaps only 50 or 100 miles away!  To learn Italy, one needs to learn regional Italy, all twenty regions.   Coincidentally, a blogging friend Jen, starting a monthly blogging group with the same purpose: one Italian region per month.  I joined in right away!  Over the coming months, I’ll often be featuring a meal from the region we’re exploring, as long as it matches up with the monthly theme here on Wine Pairing Weekend.

January: Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna is the home of some of Italy’s best known gourmet foods: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Balsamic Vinegar.  Wine?  Not so much, perhaps because it is overshadowed by it’s more famous neighbor to the south: Tuscany. Lambrusco is the most famous wine from Emilia-Romagna, but its reputation in the US is still trying to recover from the Riunite onslaught in the 70’s.  Anyway, there are many interesting wines made in this region, you just have a look a little further to find them.

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Cornish Hen Ragù, Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta
Today’s dish and wines all come from Emilia-Romagna, a mini-visit to the region, if you will. Many of the pastas we are familiar with in the US come from this area, and ravioli is a good example.  Sure, making handmade filled pasta takes a bit of time, but what a nice way to spend a cold winter afternoon.

All from scratch: butternut squash ravioli in cornish hen ragu with roasted brussels sprouts w/ pancetta

All from scratch: butternut squash ravioli in cornish hen ragu with roasted brussels sprouts w/ pancetta

Tre Monti is a winery located near the town of Romagna. Even though the two wines today are their basic wines, they are made from sustainably managed, estate grown grapes, and hand harvested. No shortcuts here!

Tre Monti Trebbiano di Romagna D.O.C. “Vigna Rio” 2012 ($15 at South Lyndale Liquors)
The Vigna Rio is 100% Trebbiano, 100% aged in stainless, no malolactic fermentation to retain freshness.
Eye: Clear, beautiful rich yellow.  Seemed almost frizzante in the glass at first pour, but doesn’t taste fizzy at all.
Nose: Rich nose, but shy.  A bit of beeswax, pears.
Mouth: Full body, nice acidity.  A surprisingly nice wine for its modest price point. We enjoyed this wine a lot!

Surprisingly nice; full bodied but great acidity.  A treat!

Surprisingly nice; full bodied but great acidity. A treat!

Tre Monti Sangiovese di Romagna D.O.C. Superiore “Campo di Mezzo” 2013 ($15 at South Lyndale Liquors)
This wine is 100% Sangiovese, aged in stainless steel.
Eye: Very purple, dark translucent edge but opaque center
Nose: Intensely candied red nose.
Mouth: Brightly acidic, hard to tell if the finish is tannic because the acidity is so strong, almost tart. The overall impression is vibrant bright red fruit.

Campo di Mezzo was full of bright red fruit flavors.

Campo di Mezzo was full of bright red fruit flavors.

Wine Pairing with Butternut Squash Ravioli
We enjoyed both wines with the meal, but we felt the Trebbiano was clearly the better pairing. With a full body yet bright acidity, it stood up to all the flavors and the richness of the pasta.  The bright red fruit present in the Sangiovese just seemed a bit much in the presence of the lighter flavors of the dish.

The Trebbiano was the better match at dinner.

The Trebbiano was the better match at dinner.

Pasta Fresca: a Satisfying All-Afternoon Activity
Fresh pasta may not be the best idea on a weeknight unless you’ve done lots of prep or you like to eat late. If you don’t mind taking part of your weekend afternoon, however, you can have a lot of fun creating wonderful pasta from a mound of flour and some eggs. The results are well worth the effort! (click on any photo below to start the slide show)

Wine Pairing Weekend
This month’s theme for our #WinePW group is “your 2015 wine/food resolution”.  Please take a look at my fellow bloggers resolutions for 2015.  Looks like a fun year!
Sue from It’s Okay to Eat the Cupcake is pairing “Fiery Red & Icy White”.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla has Argentina on her mind and is sharing “Empanadas Mendocinas + ’10 La Posta del Vi natero Malbec”.

Cindy of Grape Experience suggests starting the year with “Wine & Dine: Fontana Candida Terre de Grife 2012 Frascati & Slow Cooker Artichoke Dip”.

Shaina of Take A Bite Out of Boca is offering “Herb Marinated Mushrooms with Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile”.

William of Wild For Washington Wine is giving us “ A Resolution for Greek Wine, A Recipe for Avogolemeno”.

Martin from Enoflyz Wine Blog is shaking things up with “Skillet Kale Pesto & Seitan Pizza with Querceto Chianti Classico”

Jade from Tasting Pour is pairing “Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso and Duck Breasts with Cherry Hazelnut Compote”.

Sarah that Curious Cuisiniere brings us “Chicken Cacciatore & Washington Merlot”.

Wendy from A Day on the Life of the Farm has a “New Year’s Wine Resolution of Prime Rib Roast with 2010 Cotes de Bourg”.

David of Cooking Chat Food is going Greek with “Greek Lamb Stew & Wine Pairing”.

Jennifer from Vino Travels it taking us to Puglia and sharing “Typical Dishes and Wine Pairings from Puglia”.

Jeff from food wine click is focusing on “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive”.

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog will be tempting us “My 2015 Wine Resolution: Diversity!”

Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva, is focusing on the“Rhone Rangers & Paul Bocuse”.

Don’t forget to join us for our Twitter Chat on Saturday, January 10th at 8 a.m. PST using hashtag #winePW.

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Cornish Hen Ragù

Adapted from a recipe by Biba Caggiano from “Biba’s Taste of Italy” Officially, this would be a “primi”, or 1st course, but we made the brussels sprouts and enjoyed it as our dinner.  Besides, it was already late enough!



  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • extra flour for dusting
  • 2 lb. butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds.  Place cut side down on a pan and roast at 375° F for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven to cool.
  • Mound the flour, make a large enough indent for the eggs, crack the eggs and start mixing.  Keep incorporating flour until you get a dough that is moist but not too sticky. Note that you may not use all the flour, that’s ok.
  • Knead the dough until pliable, about 5 minutes. Form into a cylinder.
  • Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Scoop out the squash, and place in a large cloth napkin or smooth kitchen towel.  Carefully wring out as much water as possible.  This is important!  Wet filling will soak unwanted moisture into the pasta shell.
  • Empty the squash into a bowl, add the grated Parmigiano- Reggiano, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, and mash.
  • Put in the refrigerator until ready to scoop into the ravioli.
  • Cut the pasta roll into 4 pieces.  Keep 3 wrapped in plastic while you work on 1 piece.  You’ll go all the way to finished ravioli before you start the next piece.
  • Flatten out the pasta and dust it with flour so it’s not too sticky.  Run through your pasta machine at it’s widest setting.
  • Fold the pasta over to the width of your pasta machine, and run it through again.  Then fold it over and run it through one final time.
  • Now, work your way down to the thinnest setting, dusting the ever longer & thinner pasta with flour if it feels like it is getting sticky.
  • Finally, cut your long, thin sheet of pasta in half, place one half on a flour dusted surface and the other next to it.
  • Scoop out teaspoon size portions of filling and drop them carefully onto the bottom sheet.  When you have an array of filling dots (photo above), place the empty pasta sheet on top and carefully press out any air and seal the ravioli-to-be.
  • Cut the excess pasta off the outside and then cut out the individual ravioli.  Place them on a flour dusted cookie sheet, being careful to not let them touch each other.
  • Repeat with the remaining pasta and filling.
  • Fill a large pot of water, add a generous tablespoon of kosher salt and bring to a rapid boil.
  • Cook the ravioli for about 10 minutes.  I always end up some failed, leaky ravioli, so I use these to taste for doneness.
  • Jump down to the bottom of the ragù instructions for the finishing steps

Cornish Hen Ragù
The original recipe recommends starting from the bird and proceeding with the steps below.  I’d be very tempted to try the ragù with ground chicken in the future to save a bunch of steps.  Still, it’s fun to do it from scratch when you have the time.


  • 2 squabs, or substitute cornish game hens, about 1 lb. each
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp high quality, aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated


  • Using kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the birds and cut into major pieces.
  • Remove the skin from all the pieces.
  • Coat the pieces with the olive oil and mix in the sage and rosemary, let the bird marinate for 1-1.5 hours in the refrigerator.
  • After marinading, debone the breasts, thighs and legs and mince into very small pieces.
  • In a large, deep skillet (large enough to hold the ragu and ravioli), melt the butter at medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 8-10 minutes until clear and soft. Add the minced hen meat and cook until brown for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn up the heat to high and stir in the sage and white wine.  Reduce the wine to half.
  • Turn the heat down to low, add the butter until melted.
  • Finally, turn off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar and mix well.
  • After the ravioli are cooked, carefully remove them from the water with a wire strainer, place them in the ragù pan, and gently mix to coat the ravioli with the ragu.
  • Plate the ravioli and ragù, and sprinkle with the grated parmigiano-reggiano.  Garnish with leftover fresh sage leaves.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta


  • 8 oz. fresh brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 oz. chopped pancetta
  • 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 375° F
  • Mix all the ingredients into a bowl, and spread on a 9×13 pan or cookie sheet, being careful to avoid crowding.
  • Roast for 30 minutes and serve!


33 Responses to “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive! #WinePW”
  1. shaywiz says:

    Your ravioli looks great! Yum! I think I would prefer the red wine out of the two you highlighted. Thanks for the information!

  2. I am seriously swooning over that ravioli.

  3. Anything that has to do with Italy is a fab resolution and one that is easy to keep! Delicious dish and wonderful wine. 🙂

  4. This is so up my alley! Can’t wait to make this dish and enjoy with similar wine! Salude!

  5. culinarycam says:

    There are no words. Just so impressed. And inspired. Thanks, Jeff.

  6. My 2015 wine resolution is also to do a deep dive on Italian wine Jeff! I’m planning to join the #ItalianWineFWT group. Your dish looks fantastic. Hope to see you “around” so to speak learning about Italian wine and food!

  7. I’m thinking we need a group dive with Jeff! Drooling over the photos and the wine, and well just everything. Bravo!

  8. Wow, wow, wow…your dish is absolutely gorgeous. I like your comparison of the red and white with it too. Looking forward to learning about the food and wine in Italy on your blog this year!

  9. Holy cannoli I want me some of that.

  10. ooooo666 says:

    Thanks for the shout out Jeff! I’m glad you joined #italianFWT. Love the time put into fresh pasta and I’m sure this dish was well worth it. Butternut squash filled ravioli are one of my favorites and I recall sitting in Parma a year ago eating it downtown. Delicious!

  11. alifemoment says:

    That’s great, your ravioli look great, well done 😊😊

  12. Jeff, wonderful motivation to attempt making Ravioli – my wife usually makes it not me. I love that you tried 2 wines, white and red for this pairing. Great photo documentation, that’s work. Your photos stimulated my appetite. Hungry. Thank you for sharing.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff from food wine click is focusing on “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive”. […]

  2. […] Jeff from food wine click is focusing on “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive”. […]

  3. […] Jeff from food wine click is focusing on “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive”. […]

  4. […] cooking stresses high quality ingredients. Use fresh, local eggs for your pasta! Eggs & flour. Period. Just like our ravioli day, knead the dough. Every […]

  5. […] Jeff from food wine click is focusing on “Wine & Food Resolution 2015: Italy Deep Dive”. […]

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