Pairing wine with food is something that people tend to overthink. But it can be simple – and even fun – without much in-depth wine knowledge at all. One of our favorite “shortcuts” when it comes to wine pairings is to simply match the region of the wine to the region of the food… and we’d be willing to bet the most most crowd-pleasing and delicious examples of this is Italian wine with Italian food. So when we arrived at the BCAE for Chef Joe Faro’s Italian cooking class with four of our favorite Italian wines, we knew the whole crowd would be in for a fun and flavorful night.
Faro is the Founder, Chef and “Food Taster” (how can we get that job?) for Tuscan Brands – a hybrid artisan Italian market and restaurant concept with locations in Burlington, MA and Salem, NH. A descendent from Sicilian immigrants, Faro attributes most of his cooking skills in to observing his family making traditional recipes, and hands-on kitchen experience throughout his career. And from antipasti to Zeppoli, we were not disappointed.
True to Italian tradition, the class began with and antipasti plate composed of Prosciutto di Parma, aged balsalmic, and a 24 month aged Parmigianino Reggiano that originated from a wheel that was easily 100 lbs (rumor has it Tuscan Market moved through those Parm wheels at record speed). The combination of flavors proved to be the perfect platform for students to experiment with our wine as well. Some sipped Prosecco or Pinot Grigio (a light and lively pairing alongside the cheese), while others were enticed by how the medium-bodied Nebbiolo paired up with the Proscuitto. Though the runaway wine hit of the night seemed to be our Super Tuscan, which held its own alongside many of the bold flavors we experienced that evening.
After the antipasti, it was time to get down to business. The class was split into two sections – cooks and diners. The folks who had signed up to cook were assigned their first task: handmade pasta. Faro helped everyone make with pasta dough fro scratch (recipe here) and then explaining to the class how to craft Pappardelle in the pasta maker. In his words, “If you don’t have a lot of time….don’t make pasta. Make rice instead.” Though it was certainly an involved process, the cooks crafted their pasta like pros and whole class reaped the delicious benefit: Braised duck Pappardelle with crispy wild mushrooms, truffled brown butter, and vin cotto (made with our Nebbiolo, naturally).
After the pasta course, the class dove straight in to the main: a rosemary crusted pork loin with roasted acorn squash and sage risotto. The aromatic herbs and hearty pork proved to be a prime pairing for our Super Tuscan… proof that food and wine from similar regions are practically designed to be consumed side by side.
Last but not least was dessert, Zeppoli (home-made Italian doughnuts) with chocolate espresso reduction and whipped cream. We entertained a small debate about wine and dessert pairings – do you try and match the sweetness with a light, fruity wine (like our Prosecco), or add some contrast with a bold red (Faro’s personal preference)? The class was split on their opinions, but we could all agree that the Zeppoli tasted divine.
Though most people will have a wonderful time simply eating great food or tasting wine, pairing wine with the food it was made to go with is truly an elevated experience that we were excited to provide to this class. Though if you want to try it at home, the best way to replicate it is to be open-minded and willing to try all kinds of flavors and combinations. After all – the best food and wine pairing is one that tastes great to you, and the only way to discover that is through hands-on (or bottoms up?) experience.
Do you have a go-to food and wine pairing? Is there a flavor that totally stumps you when it comes to pairing it with a wine? Do you prefer red or white wine with a sweet dessert? Let us know in the comments, or tell us on Facebook or Twitter!