Fall is here, and that means it’s time to pull out the red wines and comfort dishes that we all know and love. One of the world’s oldest and most popular red wine varietals, Merlot can be made in many styles, and pairs well with a number of foods, including hearty dishes like lasagna, pasta Bolognese, and beef stew.
When it’s blended with a wine like Corvina or Cabernet Sauvignon, the flavor in Merlot becomes more complex and slightly more fruity, making the wine an interesting partner for Italian dishes like seafood pasta with a sweet tomato butter sauce, barbecued meats, or even desserts. You’ll also find that flavors and styles vary, depending on how late the grapes were harvested, as well as the style of winemaking used.
Here is a recipe for Merlot Month (October) and World Pasta Day (10/25) that’s sure to please!
Pasta Bolognese With Red Wine
Pairing: Tussock Jumper Merlot 2017, Southwest France
Created by the Crave Local Test Kitchen
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbs for tossing with pasta
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped fine
- 1/2 lb 80/20 ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 tsp Salt Works sel gris sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground Black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, or 1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground or shaved nutmeg
- 1 cup Tussock Jumper Merlot
- 1 large can whole Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand with juice reserved
- 1 ¼ lb fresh pappardelle pasta or any long, wide noodle pasta
- Serve with: Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- Optional: fresh basil or oregano
Put the oil, butter, and onion into a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Cook and stir until the onion is translucent, then add the garlic, celery, and carrot. Cook for about two to three minutes, stirring the vegetables to prevent them from browning.
Add the ground beef and pork, as well as the salt and black pepper. Stir well, making sure to cut the beef and pork into small crumbly bits using your spatula or spoon.
Lower the heat to medium low, add the half and half, and let the sauce simmer gently, stirring frequently. Add the nutmeg and Italian seasoning, stir. Do not let the milk scald.
Add the wine, allowing the liquid to simmer until it has been fully incorporated into the sauce. Next, add the tomatoes and stir, breaking them down with a wooden spoon as needed.
When the sauce begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Cook uncovered for 1.5 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and browning. If the sauce starts to dry out a bit, add more wine or more tomatoes and cream as needed. When cooking is complete, check the taste for salt, and add as needed.
While the sauce is finishing up, cook the pasta, adding the EVOO when it’s drained so as to prevent sticking. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table.