Cooking to the Wine: Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico with Italian Meatloaf and Pasta Pomodoro



I needed comfort food. I was a little under the weather and not feeling great on the day we popped open this Chianti Classico. I wanted yummy, cozy food and that definitely informed the menu choices on this particular day. Chianti is a great option on which to base a comfort food dinner because the wines of the region tend to go so well with all of those fantastic Italian flavors that almost immediately make us feel taken care of.  


It’s also a region with a really long history. Grand Duke Cosimo Medici III first demarcated this Tuscan region in 1716. Barone Bettino Ricasoli set the foundation for the modern style of Chianti in 1872 with the recommendation that Sangiovese be the basis of the wine, with the use of a little Canaiolo to soften Sangio’s edges. Canaiolo was usually used as the base of the wine, but a wide range of local grapes, including several white wines grapes (Trebbiano and Malvasia), were originally used in the blend. It took until the end of the 19th century for the Barone’s recommendations to gain wide footing. However, Ricasoli’s ‘formula’ won out in the end.


The region’s reputation has taken some punches during this long history. When it was ultimately codified in 1967 under the DOC system, a much larger area was included than the Grand Duke had suggested way back in 1716. This included a lot of vineyard areas that were less than spectacular. There also wasn’t much control on yields and there was a lot of mass-market production going on. The “fiasco”–those straw-covered, bulbous bottles you often now see used as decoration in so many neighborhood Italian joints–became the symbol for the cheap image of associated with Chianti from the 60’s through the 80’s.


Eventually, the region got its act together again and decided to refocus on quality and get their rep back in order. The Classico zone was upgraded to DOCG status in 1984 (as was Chianti). It essentially covers the original area between Siena and Florence that the Grand Duke originally laid out. There have also been tweaks to the production rules and the recipe of grapes allowed over time. Altogether, Chianti has won its reputation back.


Nowadays, the Chianti DOCG recipe calls for 70-100% Sangiovese. Local varieties Canaiolo and Colorino can make up the remainder of the blend. Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet are also now allowed, although Cab may not exceed a maximum of 15%. The white grapes are out of there. In Chianti Classio DOCG must be made up of 80% Sangio.


It’s also worth knowing that there are several additional subzones that can add their names to Chianti: Rùfina, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Colli Aretini, and Montalbano, and Montespertoli. Of these, Rùfina is usually considered to be the most consistent in quality.


Today’s wine is the Borgo Scopeto Chinati Classico 2013. This property is right outside Siena. It was the residence of the Sozzini family for five centuries. It was carefully restored and is now a spectacular looking hotel. (Waiting for my invite and ready to pack my bags at any time!)


Chianti’s flavor profile is characterized by red and black cherry fruit notes, along with savory wild herbs and spice, and tends to show Sangio’s racy acidity and well-structured tannins. Classico will tend to show more of this structure, whereas basic Chianti can be on the lighter, fruitier side. 



The Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico showed a lot of traditional characteristics. On the day we opened this bottle Greg and I noted black cherry fruit notes, maybe a little persimmon–the fruit notes showed at various stages, some on the fresher side, as well as some more sauced and cooked notes. There was tarragon, oregano, and other mixed savory herbs, black tea, and tomato leaf. There were light spice notes of clove and a little orange rind. The wine opened up considerably in the glass when we tasted it, allowing the fruit notes to open up and flesh out and for the spice notes to integrate. We definitely decanted the rest of the wine about an hour before dinner later that night. (I learned my lesson after our experience with the Douro and Octopus.)


Like I said, I really wanted comfort food, so my mind basically went straight to meatballs or meatloaf. Greg seconded the meatloaf idea, so we decided to give it an Italian spin incorporating some of the herb notes we picked up in the wine and served it topped with and quick and easy tomato and onion sauté.


The meal was rounded out with a batch of Potatoes and Leeks, based on a recipe by Chef André Soltner, that I’d made earlier in the week. When I was in culinary school, I used to volunteer helping out during the recreational classes the school gave. I picked up this recipe during one such recreational class lead by André Soltner, who happens to be one of the deans at ICC. It has become one of our absolute favorite ways to enjoy potatoes. It’s a chunkier twist on mashed potatoes, but so much easier to make, and the potatoes get soooooo much flavor from the leeks and onions they’re cooked with.


I’d expected then wine to become brighter alongside the tomatoes in the food. Interestingly, it actually became darker and broodier, with more of the tobacco, spice, and notes of licorice and light pepper emerging from the wine. The wine did really open and the fruit really smoothed out after getting some air. Some darker fruit notes joined the party as well. On the whole, this was exactly the kind of homey, comforting dinner I was looking for, and it was backed with full support from Greg as well.


We had actually previously had this wine a few months ago when my ‘sister from another mister,’ Antonella, was visiting. One night we decided to stay in and cook. Part of Anto’s family is of Italian origin and she gave me a tutorial on how her family prepares Filetto di Pomodoro (or fillet of tomato) and served it on penne with a little prosciutto kicker. It’s a simple dish and we had such a lovely evening in. The wine worked well in that case too, so I’ve gone ahead and included that recipe at the end as well.


THE GEEKY DETAILS


I couldn’t find the exact blend, but the varietals are fermented separately for 6 days, and the wine is left in contact with the skins for another 10 days. Couldn’t find any details on the wood aging either–details are pretty scant on the tech sheet


MONEY TALK


I bought this wine from Wine.com where it’s currently listed at $14.99. I thought it was a really solid representation of the category at a really good price. At that price, this is a great House Wine.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES


Given those broodier notes that came out with the food, I think this could work well with braised and stewed meat as well. Or try it with this Spicy Salami Tomato Pasta I made a while back. On the wine side, I think a Barbera would also most likely make a very nice match.

Photo credit on this photo and on the one at the top goes to Greg Hudson.
Italian Meatloaf with Tomato Sauté and Smashed Potatoes with Leeks


I had previously prepared the Potatoes and Leeks prior to the night we made the meatloaf. However, if I was preparing everything on the same night, I would still get the meatloaf going first. You should have plenty of time to make the potatoes and any of the versions of tomatoes while the meatloaf is in the oven.


Italian Meatloaf

Total cooking time was around 90 minutes, plus about 10 minutes or so of chopping and prep time. Makes approximately 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS

½ large onion, diced (approximately 1⅔ cups diced)
½ cup shredded carrots
1 celery rib, finely diced
3  to 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 lbs ground meat (I used 85% lean)
½ cup bread crumbs (I used an Italian style version)
2 Tbsp tomato paste, divided
⅛ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried tarragon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup ketchup
1 tsp, plus a couple of pinches of pepper, or as needed
3 tsp, plus a couple of pinches of salt, or as needed (I used sea salt)
Sautéd Tomatoes with onions (following)
Shredded Parmesan or Quattro Formaggio Italian Blend, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Sweat the diced onions, shredded carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt and pepper in a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are nearly softened through. If the vegetables start to brown, add a little water to keep from cooking too fast. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two until everything is fully cooked. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, tarragon, the beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 3 teaspoons of salt. Once the vegetables have cooled down a little, add them to the mixture and combine well.

Note: At this point, whenever I’m making meatloaf, meatballs, or hamburgers, I like to make a test patty by cooking a tiny amount in a pan. This gives you the chance to taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the ketchup and the remaining tablespoon of tomato paste along with a pinch of each salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as needed.

5. Line a baking sheet or pan with greased aluminum foil or parchment paper to allow for easy cleanup. Form the ground meat mixture into a freeform loaf. Spoon or brush the ketchup mixture evenly over the loaf. Transfer the baking sheet with the loaf to the oven and bake for an hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

6. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow it to set for about 10 minutes. Serve hot topped with the tomato sauté, a sprinkle of Italian cheese blend (or Parmesan) and a scoop of the potatoes and leeks.

Note: The meatloaf turned out delicious, but it did crack in a spot. I’ve read since (via Ina Garten) that putting a pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf, will help prevent this from happening.


Tomatoes and Onion Sauté

This is really a non-recipe, so I’m going to give you a few ways to do it. As it’s the end of the tomato season, I had been cooking lots of tomatoes from the farmers market on this particular week to freeze.

1) I had made a big batch of sous vide garlic tomatoes using a mix of different heirloom tomatoes essentially following this recipe for guidelines.

Basically, all I did was to combine a couple of pounds of quartered tomatoes with a couple of cloves of garlic, thyme, basil, salt, and couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a food grade ziplock bag. I set the Anova Circulator to 145°F and put the tomatoes in for 45 minutes to an hour.

You could stop right here if you want. The tomatoes come out delicious. They cook through, but maintain a lot of their texture and really fresh flavor. On this particular day, however, I was looking for more of a thick, compote-like consistency, so I decided to take things a step further. I sweat ½ of a large onion in a little olive oil and a little salt and pepper. When the onions were cooked through I added in 1 ½ cups of the previously prepared sous vide tomatoes and cook it all together for another minute or two. Serve on the meatloaf.

2) Of course you can easily make a similar sauté without the sous vide. Start with the onion: sweat ½ of a large onion in a little olive oil and a little salt and pepper. When the onions are almost cooked through, added in 2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves. Dice tomatoes and add to the sauté.  (I think 6 to 8 medium tomatoes would work for 4 servings, but there are no hard and fast rules here. You could even use a can of diced tomatoes.) Add in thyme and chopped basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

As a final option, you could also make the Filetto di Pomodoro below and use that top the meatloaf.


Leeks and Potatoes

Adapted from a recipe by André Soltner. His recipe says this serves 4, but I usually find I get a lot more side portions out of this than that. Total cooking time is around 40 minutes, plus a few minutes of chopping.

INGREDIENTS

4 leeks, using all of the white portion and the lighter parts of the green, well-cleaned and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium white onion, finely diced (the onions are sliced in the original recipe. Either way works, just a matter of textural preference.)
2 pounds of potatoes, diced or sliced (They’re sliced in the original recipe, but I’ve done it both ways. He also peels them, which I never bother doing.)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and leeks and cook gently until very lightly browned. Add the potatoes to the pot, followed by enough water to come to about ½ an inch from the top of the vegetables. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, then reduce to a simmer. Cook slowly for 25 minutes. Some liquid will remain in the pot–don’t discard it.

3. With a whisk or potato mashers, smash the vegetables in the liquid, roughly breaking them up. Add the remaining butter, season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir and mash it all well to combine. Serve.



Penne Filetto di Pomodoro

My friend Antonella gave me a demo on how her family does Filetto di Pomodoro on one of her recent visits. Filetto di Pomodoro is supposed to be a really quickie dish. That said, Anto also admits that on a weeknight she’s more likely to take an approach similar to second tomato and onion sauté above. We added prosciutto–because why not?–but that is fully optional. I’m going to give you quantities here, but as you can probably guess, you can adjust this to however many tomatoes you’d like to make and add the other ingredients to taste. I highly recommend doing this in big batches as saving the extras for another day. Makes about 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS

6 to 8 roma tomatoes
1-16 oz package of penne, or pasta of your choice
1 medium onion (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil or a combination (which is how we did it)
3 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced
¼ cup basil, julienned (or to taste)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
A few slices of prosciutto, sliced into thin strips (optional)
Shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Score the tomatoes with a small “X” at one end. Drop the tomatoes in the water in batches of 3 to 4. After about 30 seconds, the skin will begin to loosen and lift. Remove the tomatoes from the water using a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Once the skins of all the tomatoes have been loosened, check water level, add more if needed, bring back to a boil, then add the penne to water. (Of course, you can start a new pot, but I just used the water that was already there.) Cook for pasta for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. If using the onions, heat the olive oil and/or butter in a large pan. Add the onions and sweat until tender–about 10-12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes once cool enough to handle. Squeeze out the juice and set aside. Scoop out the cores, then slice the tomatoes into large strips (i.e. fillets).

5. If you’re not using the onions, heat the olive oil and/or butter in a large pan now. Add the tomato juice to the pan and allow it to concentrate and reduce a little. Add the tomato and garlic to the pan. Sauté the mixture for a few minutes until the mixture become saucy. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil. (Save a little bit for garnish if desired.)

6. Toss the tomatoes with the pasta and prosciutto (if using) and distribute into bowls. Top each serving with shredded cheese and additional basil if desired.

 

This month I'm joining the Italian Food Wine and Travel group, who will also be sharing their Chianti findings. The group meets on twitter on  the first Saturday of month. Just look for the #ItalianFWT hashtag on Twitter! See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer: 





  • Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “Chianti of Terricola with Fattoria Fibbiano
  • Jane at Always Ravenous shares Classic Tuscan Ragù Paired with Chianti
  • Li at The Wining Hour shares “Chianti Superiore, A Wine with Many Faces
  • Jill at L’Occasion shares “Chianti Lessons
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Rolling the Dice on a 1979 Chianti Rufina
  • Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Experience Chianti Classico with Montefioralle
  • Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “Collaboration, Passion, and Tradition Makes You Stronger – Vignaioli di Radda
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “A Glass of Chianti & Dreams of Porchetta
  • Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Chianti: Beyond the Straw Bottle
  • Susannah at Avvinare shares "Wines from Chianti Colli Fiorentini - Worthy of Our Attention"


  • Additional resources used for this post:
    GuildSomm.com 
    The Oxford Companion to Wine via Jancis Robinson.com.
    Wine-searcher.com

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    5 comments

    1. Straight to the wine, like you, I would not think the wine would become darker and broodier. It's so interesting to play with food and wine pairings, even more so when a wine throws a curve ball!

      I know for sure my hubby is going to love the leek and potato dish, a keeper!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. The curve balls definitely keep things interesting! And Definitely try the potatoes -- a lot less fussy than the average mashed potatoes!

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    2. I'm thinking this would be a heavenly pairing for a fall night. I love the story of how you came to learn (and teach) this meal. Thank you, Nicole!

      ReplyDelete
    3. Who doesn't love a good pasta dish!? Glad to have you join us this month.

      ReplyDelete