It’s October, or what I call “The Pretty Leaf Season” here in Michigan! Mother Nature is giving us the last splash of color to warm our hearts and soothe our souls. It’s also the start of soup season, pumpkin hunting, and bonfires with family and friends. The crisp mornings and chilly evenings make firing up your stove and oven oh so welcoming.
This month, Nidal and I have some fun recipes and wine pairings to warm you up. We’ll start with a hearty and satisfying Italian bean, pasta and vegetable soup called Pasta e Fagioli, followed by a Mediterranean Sheet Pan Salmon, Lemon Butter Orzo with Parsley, and a decadent Mascarpone Nutella Chocolate Mousse. Hope you’ll enjoy this month’s menu.
Pasta E Fagioli
This Italian favorite soup with pasta, beans and vegetables is called “Pasta e Faggioli.” Ditalini pasta is commonly used for this soup, but you can use any short pasta. The secret to Italian soups and salads is to chop the vegetables very small.
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped small
- 1 large celery stalk, chopped small
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced fine
- 1⁄4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock for vegetarian option
- 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1/2 pound ditalini pasta (pre-cook and keep in the fridge)
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or 31⁄2 cups freshly cooked beans)
- 1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish
- Pre-cook the pasta noodles until al dente. Remove, rinse in cold water, drain. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and set aside until ready to add to the soup.
- Sauté the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery for 2 to 3 minutes, until it’s soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes, rosemary and sauté another minute or two.
- Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for another few minutes.
- Add beans, parsley and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in the pasta and parsley. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Dish up in individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Many of us don’t drink wine with soup, especially if it’s a main course, but there are many wines that would complement the hearty Pasta Fagioli and I feel if it’s part of a multi-course dinner, it’s appropriate to pair with wine. If the soup is a first course, choose a sparkling wine from northern Italy such as Franciacorta’s Ca’ del Bosco. This wine is produced in the “methodo classico,” which is the same method with which Champagne is made. If the soup is following a meat dish and you like red wine, a soft red–like a Pinot Nero from the Trentino Alto Adige or Te Pa Pinot Noir from New Zealand.
Mediterranean Sheet Pan Salmon
Are you a member of the sheet-pan-dinner club yet? Much like slow cookers and cast iron skillets, sheet pans are great for creating meals that taste great and are finished in no time.
Ingredients (makes 6 servings):
- A large whole salmon filet, mine is about 21⁄2 pounds
- 2 small lemons, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pitted assorted olives
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- A few marinated sweet or hot peppers. I like to get them from the olive bar at my supermarket so I don’t have to buy a whole jar.
- 2 tsp. capers
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced, rings separated
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 2 Tbsp. salted butter, cut in small chunks (optional)
- Fresh herbs such as oregano, rosemary or thyme
- Preheat oven to 425F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out your fish. Tuck the thin tail end under to make a thicker layer so the fish will cook evenly.
- Arrange the lemon slices on and around the fish, along with the olives, tomatoes, peppers, capers and onions. Drizzle olive oil over all and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dot with chunks of butter, if using.
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until the fish is done through and flakes easily with a fork. (The exact cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your fish, and if your fish is especially thick or heavier it will take longer.)
- Garnish with fresh herbs before serving.
Salmon is a meaty, fatty fish and is much more robust than halibut or fillet of tilapia. Salmon pairs well with a wider variety of wines. The key is to complement the preparation and seasoning of your fish. A glass of wine can elevate the salmon to the next level. You can continue with same red wine criteria as the Pasta Fagioli, or try a dry Riesling from Alsace or Germany. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would add a new dimension to this dish, especially with slightly spicy tang preparation.
Lemon Butter Orzo with Parsley
I love to serve this easy, brightly flavored orzo with roasted meats, fish and chicken. You can also add fresh tomatoes, or any other veggies you like. This orzo is scrumptious served warm or at room temperature. It’s very simple to make (as all sides should be), but manages to become the buttery-delicious star of any meal.
Ingredients: (makes 4 to 6 servings):
- 3 cups water
- 11⁄2 cups uncooked orzo
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄4 cup (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
- Zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
- Dash of paprika
- Kosher salt and coarse black pepper, to taste
- 1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add orzo, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook until pasta is tender, 10-12 minutes.
- Drain orzo and return to pan. Stir in butter, lemon zest and juice, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper until well blended. Spoon into a large serving dish and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Serve warm.
Mascarpone Nutella Mousse
Dazzle your guests with this restaurant-worthy dessert that’s made in minutes (and can even be made ahead!) And the best part is…no cooking required!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 cup Marscarpone cheese
- 1 cup Nutella
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Using a hand whisk, whip the cream rapidly using wide strokes, going in both directions until you get soft peaks.
- In a mixer, blend the mascarpone with the Nutella and mix until fully incorporated.
- Fold the Nutella-mascarpone mix into the whipped cream, blending into a mousse. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator before serving.
I heard through the grapevine that some of the sweetest things in life come in spread form. Seriously. We can’t think of a single person in the world who doesn’t love a spoonful of Nutella. This silky textured nutty flavored dessert will warm your soul in a cold fall night paired with a glass of a Ruby Porto. Enough said!
That’s it for this month. Follow me on Instagram, vivaitalytoursllc, for healthy living inspiration. And check out my food and wine tours to Italy. Below you will find contact information for both Nidal Daher and me. Buon appetito and salute!
Nidal M. Daher
President/Certified Sommelier Phone: 248-852-8800
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