Reggiano Lambrusco Le Grotte Rosso Dolce

This week we are drinking the number one, most popular wine imported from Italy and sold in the United States. No, it is not Pinot Grigio or Chianti. (Those would have been my two guesses.) It is called Lambrusco and  is produced in the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna, just north of Tuscany and home of many culinary delights, such as balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, and prosciutto, which is a deliciously cured Italian meat.

Reggiano Lambrusco Le Grotte Rosso Dolce ($4.99 at Trader Joe's):

Lambrusco is slightly dry and incredibly smooth. I tasted a little bit of strawberry or raspberry in the mix, so I would certainly label it fruity. It is also rather unique because it comes in every color of the wine rainbow, meaning that there is a white version, a pink version, and a red version of Lambrusco, which is what I tasted. Whichever color you choose, all Lambruscos are frizzy because they are made in pressurized tanks. They come with a champagne-style cork, yet are not considered a full sparkling wine because they only go through one bubble-inducing fermentation. Champagne and sparkling wine go through two. (Just a fun little fact -- in case you ever go on Jeopardy, or something.)

As I mentioned in my last wine blog, I'm visiting my parents at the moment, so I joined forces with my sister-in-law, Beatrice, and we made a big Italian dinner for the whole family. I specifically choose Lambrusco for this week because I knew that everyone would love it. You pretty much can't not love Lambrusco. Even my parents who generally don't like red wine were reaching for the bottle all evening long to refill their glasses. Oh, and I'm sorry -- I forgot the very best part -- it's only $4.99 a bottle!

Beatrice came up with the recipe for this week, and I think you will enjoy it.

Sicilian Pasta with Sausage and Sundried Tomatoes

4+ Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cubes Dorot frozen basil (from Trader Joe's freezer section)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
crushed black pepper to taste
1 pkg. Italian sausages (chicken or pork), removed from casing and crumbled into pieces
16 oz. bag chopped frozen spinach
5 oz. sundried tomatoes in Italian herbs, sliced (reserve the olive oil inside the jar)
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 lb. bowtie pasta
2 cups pasta water, reserved

Begin by using kitchen scissors or a knife to make a thin slice along the top of each sausage, just enough to be able to peel the outside casing off.

If you buy Sicilian-style sausages, the inside will already be crumbly and ground up, so you can just toss all of it into a bowl. If you buy the firmer sausages, you will need to run them through the food processor after you peel the outside casing off. The idea is for the sausage to be very finely ground.

Next, put the pasta water on to boil and start cooking the sauce. Completely cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil -- about 4 tablespoons should do it. Sautee the garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, and basil cubes on medium to low heat for about 10 minutes. It should closely resemble a pesto sauce at this point.

Add the sundried tomatoes and sausage meat and let the sauce cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. Add the frozen spinach, parmesan cheese, and the majority of the flavored olive oil that is inside the jar of sundried tomatoes -- just drain it directly into the pan.

Once your pasta water has started to boil, let the sauce simmer and cook the pasta however long is recommended on the back of the package.When the pasta is finished cooking, place a bowl in the sink underneath the colander and drain the pasta so that all of the water is reserved.
Measure out 2 cup of the pasta water and add it to the sauce, then place the pasta in a serving dish and top it with the sauce. Add  a little extra parmesan cheese to each individual serving.  Salute!

                                             The fam

Beatrice and me (not sure why I'm making that face . . .)

Tommy, our assistant chef, lounging under the dinner table