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  • Culinary Cam

A Little-Cultivated Sicilian Grape Along with a Perennial Favorite - Polpette al Forno

Updated: Jan 14

This month the Wine Pairing Weekend group is looking at wines made from new-to-them grapes. I am hosting and am excited to see what wines the other writers have discovered; there are grapes from Italy, Greece, and more in the list.


All the articles will be live between Friday and Saturday before our Google Meet discussion. If you are reading this early enough, and want to join in the conversation, click on the link.


Here's the New-To-Us Grape Line-Up...


A Little-Cultivated Sicilian Grape


I opened up a bottle of the 2020 Caruso e Minini Naturalmente Bio Perricone. Located on the west coast of the island, near the town of Marsala, Caruso e Minimi's history goes back to the late nineteenth century when Antonio Caruso bought the company to grow grapes for local Marsala producers. In the 1900s, Nino Caruso started producing his own wines. And, in 2004, Stefano Caruso linked with Mario Minimi to launch the present winery. They began to focus on indigenous Sicilian varieties such as Catarratto, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Inzolia, and Nerello Mascalese.


Today, Stefano's daughter Giovanna heads the historic winery. They have five hectares that are farmed organically and dedicated to Giovanna's BIO project. The estate was under water millions of years ago and is characterized by its alluvial soil which is rich in organic substances. There are also cuti, in the local dialect, which are softball-sized stones that have a specific minerality and that hold heat from the sun that allow the grapes to ripen earlier. That results in a higher acidity in the wines.


Perricone is a completely new-to-me grape variety. You might have heard it under the name 'Pignatello' and it is a little-cultivated grape in Western Sicily. That other name for the grape derives from a dialectin Palermo. The pignatidare are the red soils on which the grape grows. It's rich in aluminum oxide, iron, manganese and clays, from which typical terracotta pots are produced.


This wine comes from organically-farmed Perricone. On the nose, I jotted down red fruits with notes of licorice and rosemary. On the palate, firm tannins reminded me of a black tea with layers of red currants and warm spices. The bright acidity made this pour very food-friendly.


A Perennial Favorite - Polpette al Forno


I poured this during the few days when R was home from Santa Cruz before we picked up D from Berkeley. When I asked what he wanted for dinner, 'meatballs' was the answer. Done. I also served that arancini and a green salad to round out the table.


Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef

  • 1/2 cup organic raisins

  • 3 anchovy fillets

  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 Tablespoon capers

  • Also needed: baking sheet, parchment paper

Sauce

  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced

  • olive oil

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 1 cup tomato sauce

  • 1/2 cup wine (I used some leftover red)

  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced

  • freshly ground salt, as needed

  • freshly ground pepper, as needed


Procedure

Meatballs

About an hour before you want to cook - or longer if you need to - place the raisins and anchovies in a small container. Pour the vinegar over the top and let stand. When you're ready to cook, place the raisins, anchovies, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to break down the raisins.


Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl along with the raisin mixture. Add the garlic and capers. Use your hands to mix everything together until well-incorporated.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


Form meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet. I opted to make these large, probably two heaping tablespoons each. I made twelve out of the pound and a half of meat.


Place tray in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The meatballs should be firm to the touch and lightly browned. While they bake, make the sauce.


Sauce

In a large skillet, warm a glug or two of olive oil. Add in the onions and raisins. Cook until the onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent.


Pour in the sauce and wine. Stir to combine and lay the slices of tomatoes over the top. Cover the pan and simmer until the meatballs are ready.


Drop the cooked meatballs into the sauce. Simmer for a few minutes and turn to coat the meatballs with sauce.


To serve, place the meatballs on a platter or individual serving plates. Spoon the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.


That's a wrap on my new-to-me #WinePW January offering. The group will be back next month when our group's founder - David of Cooking Chat - hosts us while we look at BIPOC winemakers. Stay tuned!

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