Friday, December 17, 2010

Sicilian Style Pesto Ragusana & Calabretta Etna Rosso 1999 DOC

While reading Robert Camuto's book Palmento all about his odyssey through Sicilian wine country, I happened upon a dish called Pesto Ragusana. It was made by Rosa Aura, the "Mamma" of winemaker Arianna Occhipinti in Vittoria, Sicily. Arianna runs the biodynamic winery Occhipinti and is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, who owns the well-known winery COS.

I love pesto, and I usually make a traditional Genovese pesto using evoo, basil, pignoli nuts, garlic, and pecorino cheese. The Ragusana recipe calls for raw onion, almonds instead of pignoli, and lemon rinds, which peaked my interest, so I just had to give it a try.

I loved it.


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of basil
1/4 of a raw red onion
15 roasted almonds
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Put olive oil in blender, wash basil well in cold water, remove all leaves from stems and place a few at a time in blender on low speed. Slice garlic thin and finely chop onion and almonds, grate the rind of half a lemon and add to blender. Add grated cheese, salt & pepper to taste and toss with favorite pasta.

Not able to find a bottle of Occhipinti, I did the next best thing, pairing this dish with a red wine from the same region in north-eastern Sicily, a 1999 Calabretta Etna Rosso DOC. Nerello Mascalese blended with a Nerello Cappuccio, organically farmed then aged for 6-7 years in large Botti before bottling. Aromas of ripe prunes, similar to Port, coconut, vanilla syrup, fairly high alcohol content at 14.5%, licorice on the palate, and nice long but muscular finish. Balances well with the strong flavors of the pesto sauce.

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