Spaghetti w/Meatballs & Barbaresco

The next time you entertain with your grandmother’s famous spaghetti and meatball recipe, take your dinner party to the next level by pairing this signature dish with a rich, full bodied Barbaresco.

Barbaresco is made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy.  Nebbiolo is also the grape behind the famous Barolo wines and the lesser known Gattinara. The wines are named by the region they come from. All three styles have the classic notes of tar, roses, anise and mushroom. However, Italian law mandates that the Barolo style requires longer time in barrel. The old saying goes, Barolo is made for kings and Barbaresco is made from queens. Barolo’s are more masculine and robust, while Barbaresco’s are considered to be a little more elegant and graceful.

Barolo’s are nothing short of amazing, in fact they are one of my all time favorite wines, but Barbaresco’s offer a lot of the charm of a Barolo with a slightly lower price point. Since, a lot of people aren’t that familiar with Barbaresco, you can often find a great value on these wines at restaurants. The flavor profile coupled with its high acidity and tannins make this a great dinner wine for a wide array of Italian dishes from Spaghetti w/Meatballs, to Osso Bucco to Carbonara. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly pairing, grab a bottle of Barbera, Dolcetto or Chianti.



Recommended Producers 

Note: SRP refers to the average price for the newest vintage, since these wines can age for decades, they can easily fetch well over $100 for an older vintage

Carbonara & Soave

Carbonara is such a simple, yet decadent, budget-friendly and comforting dish. You only need a handful of ingredients and about 20 minutes of time and dinner is served. Carbonara pairs well with a variety of crisp Italian white wines like Pinot Grigio, Falanghina and Vermentino and even an acidic red like a Barbera d’Alba.

I love a crisp Soave from the Veneto area in Northeast Italy with this dish. Soave is predominately made from the Garganega grape and is an excellent alternative to Pinot Grigio.  The vibrant acidity in the wine provides the perfect balance to the rich creamy egg yolks in the Carbonara and the saltiness in the bacon/pancetta bring out the bountiful fruit flavors in the wine.

My favorite Soave producer is Pieropan. The family has been making wine since the 1860’s and have created a solid reputation for producing top quality Soave’s and other varietals. Try the Pieropan Soave Classico with your next Italian feast.

I used Mario Batali’s basic Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe, but substituted house made fettuccine noodles and added some fresh peas for a pop of color and sweetness. Note: Adding peas to the dish may cause an uproar if you serve this to a true Italian, but I like the textural and sweet element that the peas bring to this dish. Plus, it’s an easy way to get some veggies on your plate.


Baked Eggplant & Barbera

There’s nothing more comforting than a hearty Italian dinner! When I am celebrating a special occasion, my Italian wine of choice is typically a Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo, but most nights I gravitate toward a fruit forward Barbera from Piedmont.

The Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba is always a reliable option. Pio Cesare has been producing quality wines for five generations.  Barbera is a grape varietal from the Piedmont region of Italy. It tends to have vibrant fruit characteristics  with high acidity and mellow tannins.  This is a versatile wine that generally drinks best when young and pairs beautifully with an array of menu items from eggplant parmesan to pizza to pasta carbonara! Barbera also tends to be one of the best values at your local Italian eatery.

Tasting Notes: 2012 Pio Cesare Barbera, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $20)

The 2012 Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba is an elegant structured wine with aromas of juicy plum, blackberry & cherry with complex notes of cedar, tobacco, anise, violet & sweet spice.

Recommended Producers 
Damilano Barbera d’Asti,Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $16)
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $20)
La Spinetta Ca di Pian Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy (SRP: $22)

Recipe: Baked Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan (Makes 6 large or 9 small pieces) 


2 large egglplants (1/4 inch thick slices)
1 cup flour (add a pinch of salt & pepper)
1 cup breadcrumbs (add a pinch of salt & pepper)
2 eggs (whisked)
Olive Oil for sautéing

3 cups marinara sauce (preferably homeade)
16 oz mozzarella cheese (shredded)
12 ounces ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 package frozen spinach (defrosted & well drained)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning


Mix ricotta, 1 egg, parmesan, spinach, salt, pepper & Italian seasoning (set aside).  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Put flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in 3 dishes in an assembly line.

Dredge eggplant in flour, egg and breadcrumb mixtures. Saute for 2-3 minutes on both sides until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

In a 9×9 baking dish, add thin layer of marinara sauce followed by a layer of eggplant. Add ricotta mixture, a layer of mozzarella cheese and more tomato sauce. Repeat with another layer and top off final layer with mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil for a golden crust.  Depending on the size of the eggplant, you should have 2-3 layers. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest 15 minutes and serve!