Cooking to the Wine: Casa Rossa Rosé with Sardines & Roasted Zucchini Penne

This recipe came about a little differently than our usual Cooking to the Wine recipes.

Normally, I open a bottle early in the day. I taste it–usually Greg joins in as well. Then we take notes and brainstorm about what would make a good pairing. This one developed more gradually.

I work part time at a wine store in Oakland and given that it’s summer, we’ve been selling a whole lot of rosé. We have a lot of beautiful versions, but the Domaine Casa Rossa Rosé caught my attention for it’s value– has the average price at $14, and we sell it for $12. I think it shows a lot of complexity for the low price tag. 


The wine is bright, crisp, and pretty–everything you’d want from a rosé. It shows notes crushed berries, a hint of white peach, and light herbs. It was a lot in common with the classic rosés of Provence (like the VieVité I mentioned here), but then there is a layer of saline minerality like a sea breeze wafting through wine.

This wine is from  the IGP L’Ile de Beaute on the island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean sea between the coasts of Provence and Tuscany. The wine really takes you right there with that sea breeze.

After trying this wine a few times, an idea for this dish began to take shape. I love the excellent tinned sardines you can find out of the countries around the Mediterranean. (They put a totally different spin on canned fish–it tends to be so much better.) I thought this would be the perfect thing to drink with those sardines.

The rest of the dish grew up around that craving. Then the beautiful zucchini available during the summer months caught my eye and I decided it would be an interesting combo with the sardines. As it turns out, zucchini is grown on Corsica and is a big player in the cuisine. Beyond that, I liked the idea of creating a dish that was easy, inexpensive, and an over-achieved in a similar way to the wine. The rest of the ingredients are really simple, but altogether the dish looked and tasted way more extravagant than it was.

Greg was admittedly skeptical at the combo of zucchini and sardines when I told him the idea, but he ended up loving it. We cozied up with two big bowls of this and there were no leftovers.


My experience with Corsican wines is somewhat limited, but have really liked a lot of what I’ve tried. Moreover, every time I’ve come back to them over the years, they seem to keep getting better and better. This is apparently no accident, as there has been greater emphasis on quality in recent years.

As I mentioned earlier, Corsica lies between France and Italy. It’s actually closer to Italy and draws quite a bit of historical and viticultural influence from that county–you’ll see quite a few Italian grapes here for example. However, it’s been under French rule since 1769. This was Napoleon's birthplace–he was born in Ajaccio, the capital–and apparently the island is still entitled to sell duty-free wines and tobacco under Napoleonic law.

The quality of Corsican wines has benefited from a couple of major event in more recent history. When France lost control of Algeria in the 1960’s, quite a few skilled growers migrated to the island and quadrupled the amount of land under vine by 1976. The only problem was they planted vines that favored productivity over quality, so most the wine produced was bulk wine. In the 1980’s EU subsidies began to favor uprooting these kinds of vines, so as to reduce the so-called “wine lake” (there was a lot of cheap bulk wine around) from growing. Since then Corsican vineyards have been restructured quite a bit to put a greater emphasis on quality.

Most of the wines exported out of Corsica nowadays are under IGP L’Ile de Beaute (Island of Beauty–such a charming name, makes me want to go), but this is changing as producers have started to focus more on the varied terroirs, of which there are many. It’s a mountainous island with a lot of different climate and soil variations. As an island, of course there is a lot maritime influence, however, it’s also drier and sunnier than just about anywhere in France and the summer sun really concentrates the flavors in the grapes.

(Aside: If you are looking to try a higher level appellation from Corsica, Patrimonio AOC is the one I’ve personally seen around most often. It’s in the northern part of the island and has a lot of chalk and clay soils.)

This particular wine is made of a blend of 70% Niellucciu and 30% Grenache. Niellucciu is the local name for Sangiovese (remember I said you’d find those Italian grapes here) and it’s the most commonly planted grape on the Island.  The grapes for this wine come from the south eastern section of the island and from largely clay-limestone soils. (You can find more info here.)


Like I said, the price tag on this is just over $10 making it really good candidate to keep around as a House Wine.


One of the main factors I was reacting to in creating this pairing was that briny quality in the wine, so I think other wines with ta similar note would also make good pairings. Another Island wine comes to mind here–Assyrtiko from Santorini. Vinho Verde, Albariño, and Txakolina might make great options as well.

Let us know what works for you!


Sardine & Roasted Zucchini Penne

Makes 2 really large portions (for gluttons like us), or 4 small portions


2 cups (roughly 8 oz) dry penne
3 to 4 medium zucchini (I used a combination of green and yellow), cut into pieces roughly the length of the penne
1- 4 ¼ can smoked sardines (I used a version packed in lemon flavored olive oil)
2-3 sprigs of thyme, picked
Parmesan, to taste
Olive oil, as needed
Lemon, juice and zest, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, or follow package instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside.

3. Place the zucchini pieces in a baking dish with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown, rotating halfway through.

4. Once the zucchini is ready, remove from the oven and combine with the penne, making sure to pour any olive oil on the penne as well. Squeeze lemon juice over the pasta to taste and sprinkle with thyme, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  (Optional: Since my sardines were packed in a lemon flavored olive oil, I added this to the pasta as well.)

5. Distribute the penne into bowls and add additional Parmesan, pepper, or thyme as garnish if desired. Divide and arrange the sardines on each serving of pasta. Serve.

This month I’m participating in a discussion again with the French Winophiles. The topic this time is all about French wines under $20. When I first tasted this wine, I knew it’d be perfect for this discussion. If you're interested in joining all you have to do is tune into the #Winophiles on Twitter tomorrow 8/19 at 11 a.m est/ 8 a.m. pst. 

Check out more great French wine values from the rest of the group below. Here is the slate:

 An Affordable Red and Tapenade, Languedoc-Style by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla  
Exploring the Languedoc with Domaine Magellan by Lauren at The Swirling Dervish 
 4 French Wine Finds $20 and under with Croque Monsieur and Monte Cristo from Gwen from Wine Predator  
Each day should be a celebration by Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm 
Surprisingly Affordable Wine Region: Bordeaux! by Jeff at FoodWineClick! 
My Favorite Under $20 Pet Nat; Patrice Colin “Les Perles Gris” by Martin at ENOFLYZ Affordable French Wines Paired with Simple Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner by Jane at Always Ravenous  
Two Bargains from Bordeaux and Bergerac by Lynn at Savor the Harvest  
Mapping France in Wine Bottles: Where to Get Affordable French Wine by Jill at L’occasion 

It also just happens that this is a category I drink a lot, so I’m hoping to have a few more for you soon. I have also covered quite a few through my 8 & $20’s on, since the wines used for that series are always under $20. Here are a few more dishes I’ve created over the years that have been paired with French wine.

Lamb Kebabs With Israeli Couscous Salad
French Onion Soup and Filet Mignon With Onion Sauce
Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb With Pomegranate-Mint Bulgur Wheat
Turkey and Strawberry Salad with Baked Goat Cheese
Ham Steaks with Peach-Tomato Succotash
Braised Lamb Shanks and Lentil Stew

Additional resources used for this post:

The Oxford Companion to Wine via Jancis
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition



  1. Looks wonderful, Nicole, and so French (at least in spirit). We get so stuck on the same old fish, I love to see less frequent choices.

  2. Loving this dish, and the wine. Big fan of Corsican wines, although not had one from IGP L'Ile de Beaute IGP. I have access to fresh sardines- perhaps I'll invite Jeff Burrows over with his grill and make your dish. PS: You're invited too ;-D

  3. Love sardines! And your recipe sounds delicious - gonna have to try this one. Not sure I'll be able to convince my husband to eat sardines (he tried once in Spain and said never again) but that will leave more for me. Great post!

    1. Thanks! This would also be an easy one to make for one when he's away and curl up on the couch with the bowl and the movie.

  4. I've never had Corsican wine, but yours sounds delicious! I'm a big fan of a bit of salinity in wine! I'm typically not a fan of Sardines, but I'd mostly had the crappy ones. When we visited Spain and had fresh sardines and anchovies...well that was altogether different! Will have to try your recipe!

  5. This is great! I've had a lot of fun with Corsican wine this summer after our #Winophiles trip there earlier this year. I love when fresh salinity comes through in these coastal wines - so exquisite. Also, there are so many delightful sardines in the markets. I have an olive oil can in the pantry that I'd love to use in this dish. Off to tell my hubby whats for dinner!


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!