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As part of my culinary New Year’s resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine. Joining me along the way is my fellow blogger Aimée from Food, Je t’Aimée, and our resident wine expert Kendall Harris of Wine2Three who provides us with fantastic wine pairings for each month’s cover.
Want to join in on the fun? We’d love the company! Pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking. Be sure to send me an email at email@example.com to let me know you made the cover recipe, and if you’re a blogger don’t forget to post a link to your post in the comments below.
Ricotta & Fontina Stuffed Shells with Fennel & Radicchio
Rating: 5 out of 5 (great vegetarian option for Thanksgiving)
THE TEST: This month was extra special for me as it heralded the return of my culinary cohort Aimée from Food, Je t’Aimée, plus I had the pleasure of cooking and sharing this meal with Kendall Harris of Wine2Three! Our resident wine expert is currently on sabbatical in France for the next several months, so I was thrilled to host her for a Food & Wine Magazine cover dinner before she flew across the Atlantic. It was so much fun being able to experience this month’s recipe and wine pairing together at the same table. Definitely something that we will have to do again in the future.
Now on to the food!
After what has felt like an endless stream of meat dishes, it was with enthused relief that I prepared to tackle this pasta dish. Stuffed with sautéed fennel and radicchio along with ricotta and fontina cheeses, this recipe is meant to suffice as a vegetarian main dish option for Thanksgiving. Baked in a homemade marinara sauce and layered with additional fontina, it was easy to see how seasonally appropriate this pasta bake would be to serve guests at this time of year.
The recipe itself is not difficult, but there are several steps involved. Feel free to use a good quality jarred marinara sauce if you are short on time, but believe me when I say this sauce is definitely worth the extra effort. Olive oil is infused with garlic before tomato paste, whole tomatoes and basil are added along with salt and pepper and some sugar for sweetness, and a dash of cream.
THE RESULTS: Initially after tasting the fennel/radicchio mixture I was concerned it would be too bitter, but once it had a chance to bake everything mellowed out nicely and even the flavour of fennel was not overpowering. The creaminess of the cheese mixture (fontina – where have you been all my life!) balanced the bite of the veggies and the acidicy of the tomato sauce. The results? Perfectly balanced pasta dish that was full of fantastic flavours and deeply satisfying. I was surprised at how hearty the fennel and radicchio filling turned out; it was ironically very meaty!
One piece of advice I would offer is to let the veggies cool completely before adding the rest of the ingredients for the filling. This display of patience will help prevent everything from melting together and allow each ingredient to stand out more independently from the others.
And as for the tomato sauce? No wonder it’s called Best-Ever Marinara! Hands down one of the best (and easiest) tomato sauces I’ve had the pleasure of making.
Well-done Grace Parisi…yet another successful cover recipe.
(Don’t forget to hop on over to Food, Je t’Aimée to see how our fair Aimée made out with this recipe!)
The mission of Food & Wine Magazine is to find the most exciting places, new experiences, emerging trends and sensations in the culinary and wine industries. From travel and entertaining to luxury and design, this magazine brings an energetic and stylish take on food and wine. For more information on Food & Wine Magazine, please visit www.foodandwine.com
I had such fun watching Jasmine cook this amazing meal and take the time to photograph the beautiful pictures you see above! For this particular meal I brought an Italian wine; Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I enjoyed sharing it with Jasmine and chatting with her about its flavour and how well it paired with this wonderful meal.
I have a special relationship with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Back in my ’20s, I tasted a wine I liked and noticed it said Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on the label. At the time I wasn’t sure if that was the name of the wine, the company who bottled it, or the name of a castle in Italy. But what I did know was that I loved the wine and had to seek it out again. The next time I was in a wine shop, I asked for a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and was subsequently handed a wine with a different label than I remembered. I was a bit confused, but when I tasted the wine it held the same delicious qualities. It has since become my go-to Italian wine! I now know that Montepulciano is the name of the grape, and Abruzzo is the region (essentially it means the Montepulciano grape of Abruzzo).
NOTE: To add to the confusion there happens to be a town in Italy called Montepulciano, which produces a wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine is not made with the Montepulciano grape, it is made with Sangiovese which is Italy’s most planted red grape variety. But I digress!
After Sangiovese, Montepulciano is Italy’s second most widely dispersed indigenous grape variety. It produces a wine that pairs perfectly with the Italian dish we enjoyed from this month’s cover. It is not a heavy wine and so is perfect to serve alongside pasta, plus it has that wonderful acidity (the quality that makes your mouth water) for which Italian wines are renowned. Jasmine noticed some nice spice in it, and we both loved how fruity and bright it tasted. I hope this is a wine you explore and enjoy with your next Italian meal (maybe this recipe?) – cheers!
Kendall Harris is a wine blogger who shares her adventures in the wine world as Wine2three on Twitter & Facebook. She has an Advanced Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is passionate about sharing her wine knowledge with others. “Like” her page on Facebook for fun, informative wine posts!