Vino and veg: Pasta pesto

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Last week I made a pasta dish that we often make when we are hurried, tired or not very motivated to cook anything too complicated. I paired it with a lovely white wine and it went so well together that I thought I’d share it with you. It is quite simple and very delicious – particularly in the summer when the vegetables are at their peak. Pasta dishes are handy for us because they can easily be adapted to suit the likes and dislikes of the children. They eat pasta with sliced raw vegetables (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots) and roasted pine nuts. One prefers pesto and cheese while the other likes simple extra virgin olive oil – both are easy to accommodate and are no extra work!

I use wholewheat pasta or whole spelt pasta which once cooked, I douse with extra virgin olive oil and then I stir in a healthy portion of vegan pesto. I then top it with a variety of oven-roasted vegetables, pour a glass of wine and dinner is served! I would guess the whole process from start to table takes 45 minutes at most.

This time I used aubergine/eggplant, red onion, carrots, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh arugula and basil to top our pasta and I paired it with a lovely wine called Scaramanga White from 2015. If you read my first post about wine and food pairing, you will notice that this wine is also from the South African wine maker Nabygelegen. It is a beautiful wine which does well on its own at a picnic in the park or paired with food. It is made from a blend of three grapes: 60% Chenin Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Verdelho. This blend gives great balance, but also a diverse flavor pattern and makes it a fairly easy wine to drink and combine with food.

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It did very well with my pasta dish because it is creamy, full-bodied, and off-dry with plenty of structure. The creamy notes and oak spices were a perfect match for the earthy flavor and creamy texture of the roasted aubergine. The subtle sweetness of the wine highlighted the sweetness of the roasted red onions and carrots. Those same sweet and creamy notes, together with its floral, citrus and spiced bouquet, provided a nice balance to the tart acidity of the tomatoes, the astringency of the arugula and the peppery basil. I would certainly pair these two again!

If you’d like to try the combination yourself, here is the recipe (in the loosest sense of the word). It serves 2 adults.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat of whole spelt pasta
  • Pesto (I use this one, which is vegan, but there are probably many out there or it’s pretty easy to make it yourself)
  • 1 medium-sized aubergine, cut into cubes (2.5 cm or 1″)
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 carrots, washed or peeled and sliced into coins
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes for roasting, whole (plus whatever the kids eat raw)
  • 100 g (or 3 small handfuls) raw pine nuts
  • a handful of arugula per person
  • 5-7 basil leaves per person
  • Parmesan (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Boil water for pasta (with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt).
  2. Prepare the aubergine, onion and carrots. Toss them lightly in olive oil, place on a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven. Make sure you flip them after about 12-15 minutes. Total cooking time is approximately 25-30 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, roast the pine nuts on the stove in a pan over medium heat. Keep a good eye on them and shake regularly – they tend to burn quickly once the pan is heated. Once they’re ready, put them in a bowl to cool a bit.
  4. Put the cherry tomatoes on a smaller baking tray and add them to the oven for the last 10 minutes while the vegetables are roasting.
  5. Once the tomatoes are in the oven, cook the pasta.
  6. Stir the pesto into the cooked and drained pasta.
  7. Place your roasted vegetable trio on a thin bed of pasta. Add the tomatoes, tear up the arugula and basil and add it to the top. Finally add your pine nuts (and Parmesan, if using) and enjoy!

If you’re looking to try this wine and live in Amsterdam, you can get it at Eriks’s Delicatessen. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure a simple search online will provide alternative vendors.

Vino and veg

Okay. Confession time. I like wine – a lot. Not only is wine delicious, but each bottle has a story. Like many things, some stories are more interesting than others, but each bottle comes from somewhere, is made by someone and contains some kind of grape. I like those kind of stories, just like I like stories about food. I like reading about food, looking at it, talking about it, cooking it and eating it. For most of you, my dear friends and family, this is probably old news. For those of you who may not already know it, as a family, we eat predominantly vegetables, but are known to have fish occasionally and even meat, though very rarely. While our vegetarian lifestyle is relevant to my story, the reasons for our choices are not and so we’ll leave those aside.

What I do want to share with you is how these two loves of mine – wine and vegetarian food – play together. If you’re like me, when you visit a wine shop or read about wine, first you read the description of the wine followed by the recommendations for food pairings. The suggested pairings are often simple at best – meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian. I don’t know about you, but that’s just not enough information for me. Vegetarian (and vegan) dishes offer a very wide variety of flavors and textures and thus wine pairing opportunities.

What I’ve discovered during my food and wine journey is that I don’t always find it very easy to pair vegetarian dishes with wine. I have a lot of respect for those sommeliers in fancy restaurants who can pair a beautiful and mouth-watering vegetarian dish perfectly with a wine so artistically and masterfully that both the food and the wine,¬†each lovely on their own, are elevated to another level entirely. Oh my! To an amateur like myself, that can be both inspiring and pretty intimidating. However, after a conversation with some of the staff during a recent visit to the lovely vegetarian restaurant in Cork, Cafe Paradiso, I decided that I would not be deterred. Wine appreciation is a subjective thing, so why shouldn’t I give it a try? On my quest to enjoy this experience at home, I started keeping a little journal about my experiences/experiments (both positive and negative) and thought it might be fun to share them with you here since I suspect that I may not be alone in my desire to make a nice pairing.

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wine-pair_27848438000_oSo, for my first pairing, I’d like to show a pairing that was pretty tasty. The dish is one that we eat pretty often with slight variations based on the vegetables in the fridge. The dish is served on a bed of red and white quinoa topped with beet blocks, caramelized red onion and fennel slices, sliced portobello mushrooms, and cavolo nero (also known as black kale or Tuscan kale) and topped with feta cheese made from goat’s milk. I paired it with one of my favorite Pinot Noirs: Snow Mountain, The Mistress 2015 vintage from the winemaker at Nabygelegen. While writing this post, I read a press release on their website that the 2009 vintage of this particular wine was served during the 60th Jubilee lunch of the Queen of England. Now that is a pretty neat story! Although I wasn’t able to find much about the wine itself on their site, I did read some interesting articles about their 2013 and 2014 vintages written by Michael Olivier if you’d like to read more about it.

wine-pair_28026145072_oIt is from the Bovlei Valley in Wellington, South Africa and although it is a fruit-driven Pinot Noir, it is subtle, complex and elegant with typical earthy and mushroom-like flavors as well as spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and a bit of vanilla. The earthiness tasted great with the nutty quinoa and the earthy mushrooms, which I cooked separately on a fairly high heat so that they had a nice smoky flavor, and the red fruits, think raspberry, strawberry and some cherry, paired well with the sweet and earthy beets and also gave a lovely contrast to the creamy and salty goat feta cheese. Overall, a successful pairing!