Two great late-summer things to eat (and wine pairings, of course)

Posted by: samy September 6, 2012 2 Comments

Not too long ago, we told you about how much we love Sunday dinner.  Getting together to whip up something delicious and recharge from a hectic week while breaking bread is a treasured routine for which we are eternally grateful.

Yesterday, we broke our end-of-week tradition, and hit the kitchen for a mid-week reprieve, needing one of those restorative meals a little earlier than usual.

Not too long ago we saw a great recipe on My New Roots for Grilled Halloumi & Peaches, and taking some inspiration from that, fired up the barbie for some end-of-season goodness.

Mise en place: sliced peaches and Halloumi ready to be skewered & grilled
Skewered peaches being brushed with olive oil, honey & fresh thyme
BBQ time!

The downside here was that our peaches were a bit too firm so the Halloumi was gooey and melty — and falling off the skewers — before the peaches were sufficiently grilled: note to selves for next time, either get riper peaches, or ditch the skewers and grill separately.

In the words of revered wine writer André Simon, “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”  We can’t argue with that logic, so as we have written in the past, set about to find just the right wine pairing for our late afternoon snack. We settled on a Bruno Giacosa 2007 Roero Arneis, softly unctuous on the palate with ripe peach, paraffin and chamomile floral flavours, it paired beautifully with the sweet firm peaches, earthy thyme and salty, oozy cheese.

An elegant & filling appetizer, these would work equally well for dessert

Next up, dinner time.  Somehow, over the past year Erin’s become a bit of a specialist in Pasta Carbonara, mixing and matching various recipes & techniques until coming up with something uniquely her own (she also does a mean Bolognese, but that’s a story for another day). This recipe is loosely based on Sue Riedl’s Carbonara recipe, with highlights from  Marcella Hazan & Epicurious.

Here’s one that Erin made for a family dinner a few months ago. A lightly oaked Chardonnay is our favourite pairing for pasta Carbonara.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: how hard can Carbonara be?

Eggs, bacon, parmesan and pasta.  What’s to go wrong? Well, trust us dear friends, sometimes the simplest of recipes can become the most tragic, glopy messes when you don’t have a bunch of sauce and spice to hide behind.   Kind of like an unoaked wine … anyway, we digress.

After a bit of trial & error, and a whole lot of carbs and calories, we’ve decided we prefer shorter, stalkier pasta like the one above, to longer thinner pasta like the one below.  The shorter pasta (like penne, orcchiette, casarecce etc.) holds on to the sauce much better.

While just as tasty, the longer strands, don’t hold the sauce as well as shorter pasta

As you can see, we take our Italian dishes remarkably seriously for a German/English family (with some Portuguese influence from the in-laws).

What’s both fabulous and frustrating about this dish is it’s remarkably quick: done in 20 minutes or less, and is a wholesome, filling, elegant dinner. However, when it’s done, it’s done, so everyone better get to the table rapidamente otherwise, the silky sauce almost congeals and becomes thick.  Not very appetizing.

Sauteing mushrooms for the Carbonara (there’s actually way more than what’s pictured, but we started removing them from the pan before remembering to get a shot)
Egg mixture

Anyway, we have no trouble getting peeps to the table (one time, on a family road trip to Florida, after stopping for the fifth time for fuel and food, our Dad coined us, “The Hendersons – The Family Who Eats”).

And as is always the case, we paired this Carbonara with one of our favourite Chardonnays — Mission Hill Perpetua.  Full bodied and elegant with flavours of peach and nectarine, this matched beautifully to the creamy, rich pasta.


So that was dinner: adults went back for seconds and kids — who normally take a painful amount of time to eat the smallest of portions – went back for thirds, cleaning their plates before the grown up were even halfway through their first portions.  And the best part was after all those carbs, the children were sleepy enough to march off to bed without any prodding. In our books that’s called a win.

Erin’s Pasta Carbonara

So, we’re going to share this recipe with you, but it’s with some trepidation: we’re not chefs, but we do love to cook, and when friends and family come around, they seem to enjoy what we make and no one goes hungry.  Taste is in the mouth of the beholder, so we’ll tell you what we like and if you care to give it a whirl in your own kitchen, hopefully you’ll like it, too.

Serves 4 adults and 2 surprisingly ravenously hungry children

4 egg yolks
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling)
Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 cup diced pancetta
1 tablespoon chili pepper flakes – optional
2 cups roughly chopped crimini
1 small finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup (or more) dry white wine

1.5 lb dried pasta of choice


  • Put the water on to boil.
  • Mix egg yolks, begin adding oil in a slow stream whisking continually.  When emulsified, add nutmeg, fresh pepper and stir in grated Parm. Set aside.
  • When water is boiling, generously salt and add pasta — cook according to directions.
  • Heat large saute pan over medium heat; when pan is hot add pancetta. Render fat and add onion and mushrooms to the pan.  Saute until onions and mushrooms are soft. Add hot pepper flakes. Deglaze with wine.  Cook down until wine is almost evaporated.
  • Drain cooked pasta, reserving one cup cooking water.
  • Add pasta to onion mixture, stir to combine.  Add water as needed to moisten. Remove from heat.
  • Carefully add egg mixture, stirring constantly so as eggs don’t scramble. (You may want to add a tablespoon or two of hot pasta water to temper eggs).
  • Run to the table and Bon Appetito!


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