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!



Paleo Pairing: Barbera & Chicken Marinara

It looks like mother nature has an interesting sense of humor. We are expecting  a foot of snow in coastal Virginia.  Since I will be snowed in for the next few days, I will need to get creative with my Paleo Pairings this week. Tonight, my meal was inspired by a nice bottle of Barbera.

My Paleo Pairing for day 28 features Chicken Marinara & Barbera.  Barbera is a grape from the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy. It is one of my go to pizza wines. It is the 3rd most planted grape in Italy.  Barbera is high in acidity and low in tannins making it a versatile food friendly wine. Barbera also offers great value.  The Wall Street Journal recently posted a great piece on Barbera wines. You will normally see Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba on wine labels. That simply means the Barbera grape from the Asti or Alba region. Pio Cesare and Vietti are excellent producers.


4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil

Easy Marinara Sauce

1 can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 onion (small dice)
1/4 cup dry red wine (Barbera)
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. sugar


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

For the easy marinara sauce, heat olive over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds to release aromatics. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer over low heat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Dredge in almond flour, making sure chicken is well coated. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan (oven proof). Sear chicken for about 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Turn chicken and place pan in oven for 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Top with marinara sauce and serve.