First it snows and then it rains. A day later, the warmer temperatures melt all the snow, only to snow again a few days later. When the weather is this uncooperative and unpredictable, there’s only one thing to do: Make pasta. So, I consider it a stroke of good luck that my family’s 11th-annual pasta party is right around the corner.
The tradition began when our youngest son, Andy, was in fourth grade. We started getting phone calls from parents in his class expressing their excitement about our “offer” to teach their children how to make pasta. Upon further investigation, we learned that Andy had told several of his classmates that his family occasionally made pasta from scratch. He offered to “teach” his friends this culinary skill on the next snowy day.
But wait, there’s more. This all happened right around Valentine’s Day and one enterprising parent thought it would be lovely if they could drop their kids off at our home only to return later in the day — after presumably enjoying some alone time — to sample the results of their youngsters’ efforts. Word quickly spread that our home was open for business, and so the first Pasta Party was started.
Today, the children are all grown up and on their own, but the pasta party tradition continues. And while we no longer have access to child labor to help knead and roll out the dough, most of the same parents are game to show up early and lend a hand with cutting the pasta and stuffing the raviolis, provided that the music is on and the wine is flowing. They even bring a variety of sauces to share in a friendly competition. Of course, I am in charge of wine.
The island of Sardinia is often overlooked when it comes to Italian wines, but whatever you do, don’t overlook the 2015 Alberto Loi Therìa Vermentino di Sardegna as a wonderful way to start the evening. The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh, aromatic qualities of the grapes, with a touch of Malolactic fermentation to provide richness. It offers up beautiful scents of citrus on the nose and lush, yet crisp flavors of guava, pineapple and nectarine on the palate. Delightfully zesty acidity keeps the palate refreshed and the wine-food friendly. It pairs well with linguine and clams or seafood dishes, such as shrimp scampi. $20
Rumor has it that one of the guests is bringing a wild boar Bolognese sauce this year, so I’ll have to find a wine that can complement the rich, meaty sauce. I think I’m going to go with the 2016 Cusumano Nero D’Avola Red Wine from Sicily. Made from 100 percent Nero d’Avola — Sicily’s most widely planted red grape — the wine is powerful, yet rustic. Scents of ripe black cherries and dark raspberry fruit dominate the aromatic nose. The fresh, juicy fruit flavors of dark plum and red cherry maintain balance and depth thanks to the soft tannins and bright acidity. It will be a great match with the Bolognese and, best of all, it’s only $11.
Of course, you can’t have pasta without Chianti, particularly Chianti Classico. The 2015 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico is made in a classic style from 80 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent merlot grapes and features opulent aromas of fresh blackberry, with a touch of dried herbs on the bouquet. Intense yet balanced flavors of black cherry and red plum are lifted up on the palate with accents of tobacco and earth on the bright finish. It’s an ideal companion with pasta smothered in marinara. $20
Since this is a tradition I want to keep going for a very long time, I plan on spoiling my guests with a bottle of 2015 Gaja Sito Moresco from the Langhe appellation in Northern Italy. Sito Moresco is named for the family who farmed this 25-acre estate in Barbaresco before it was purchased by the Gaja family, one of the most notable winemaking families in Italy. It was specifically created by Gaja to be more approachable at a younger age. The addition of Barbera to the blend of Nebbiolo, merlot and cabernet sauvignon provides a smooth roundness to this big red wine. It starts out with aromas of dark fruit, dried herbs and shoe leather. Flavors of dark cherries, black plums, prunes and cocoa play out on a grand canvas of ripe tannins that evolve and smooth out over time in the glass. This is going in my glass as soon as Nancy serves her amazing meatballs. $60