Nebbiolo is a wine that is versatile in pairing with food.
Garlic, truffles, olives, capers, butternut squash, wild mushrooms, polenta, leeks, tomato-based sauces, pizza Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino Fatty foods, butter, vinegar-based sauces. This is a high tannin wine. Steak with fat. Think meats like bib eye, sausages, duck, or pork shank.
So I had this lovely Nebbiolo that was sent to me as a media sample from Terre di Bacco. This wine is from Langhe and is harvested from vineyards near Barolo. It is a wine that is meant to enjoy young and is brilliant with food.
(If you want to read our post about this wine and the Langhe DOC in Italy, visit our post here)
With the pandemic, I have been trying to eat from the pantry as much as possible and Michael happened to have ordered a butternut squash, so that was where we started.
Butternut is all well and good, but this would need to have some fat and I was kind of craving pasta so I went to the internet to do a little searching. I found a recipe on Joyful Healthy Eats for a “creamy butternut squash alfredo pasta”.
As you can see in her blog name, she leans healthy, this recipe called for 2% milk, low-sodium chicken stock, gluten-free pasta…which is all wonderful, but I was feeling indulgent, so I mixed this recipe up a bit.
If you want to do it healthily, I salute your discipline, click through to her recipe above, I am sure that it will also go very well with the wine. If you want to indulge…read on.
Bacon and Butternut Pasta
I renamed this dish, “Bacon and Butternut pasta”, leading with the bacon because, in my revamping of the dish, that was the flavor that led.
I do have a fear of butternut squash, not eating it, but cutting it. They are hard and can be difficult to cut. I usually talk Michael into cleaning them for me, and that worked this time. You can of course often find fresh cubed butternut squash in the produce department or even go with frozen. Either would work fine in this recipe.
To meld the dish with the wine, I amped up the fat and depth of flavor, frying the bacon first then adding the butter to the bacon grease to cook the onions and the rest of the dish. I happened to have a little mushroom stock left from rehydrating some mushrooms the other day, so I supplemented my chicken stock (which was not low sodium) with that. This will add mushroom notes and Nebbiolo is known to pair well with wild mushrooms.
I have fresh sage and rosemary growing in the backyard, so those were the herbs I used. The wine has big tannins (a polyphenol that occurs in red wines and black teas, among other things. They are astringent. If you want to see what tannins taste and feel like, put a wet tea bag on your tongue). While the tannins will be good with the fats, I wanted to add another tannic ingredient to the dish to match, so I toasted some walnuts to top the dish.
This is a pretty simple dish, you need a pot for the pasta, a pan for the sauce, and a food processor, blender, or…oh man, I could have made this easier by just using my immersion blender (facepalm!)
Bacon and butternut pasta
30 minutes, feeds 6
- 3 strips of applewood bacon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup diced red onion
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 3 cups butternut squash cubes
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- ¼ cup of mushroom stock
- 1 1/2 tbs diced fresh sage
- 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 cup milk
- salt to taste
- 12 oz. pasta (I used spaghetti)
- ¼ cup toasted breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- Shaved parmesan
- Fresh sage to garnish
- In a large skillet cook the 3 strips of bacon until crisp.
- Remove the bacon placing it on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add the butter and red onion to the bacon fat in the skillet. Scrape up any of those delicious bits left by the bacon, this will flavor your dish.
- Sauté until slightly soft, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant
- Add the butternut squash, chicken stock, mushroom stock, sage, and rosemary.
- Cover and cook until the butternut squash is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
- Put the squash in a food processor with the milk and salt to taste. Puree until smooth. (or…if you have an immersion blender, just turn off the heat and puree it right in the pan!)
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package
- Drain pasta and add butternut squash sauce to the pasta (or the pasta to the sauce, as I did), gently toss together and top with toasted breadcrumbs & walnuts, crispy bacon, and garnish with fresh sage.
How did the Bacon and Butternut pasta pair with the Terre di Bacco Langhe 2017 Nebbiolo?
The wine highlighted the umami notes from the bacon and onions and had nice acid to balance the rich butternut sauce. Michael found that the butternut mellowed the youthfulness of the wine, making it come across as a bit older and more serious. He also liked it very much with the sage, the coolness of the wine giving a lift to this herb.
This dish paired well with this wine. Keep in mind that this is a young Nebbiolo. A Nebbiolo with more oak aging, might want a dish with a bit more structure.
We did also pair this with a walnut, mushroom flatbread with tomato sauce and spices that was topped with red onions, arugula and sumac. The wine was very good with that pairing also!
Let us know if you try this and what adjustments you made to make the dish suit you (or your wine!)
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.