This week we went to the most beautiful wedding in Napa Valley. The ceremony, reception and dinner were all amazing and I absolutely fell in love with the valley. I could stay in California forever if I could live up there! Everything moves slower in the Valley when compared to the bay area. Also, one thing I really enjoy about Napa is that each of the towns are separated by fields, much like back home in Wisconsin. Well...the fields are grapes and not corn, but the concept is the same. :-)
Before we went, I spent some time online looking up things to do in Napa. Shockingly (!!!!) most of the top choices were wineries. I absolutly love wine (Karla juice), but I really don't know much about it. I know when I like a wine, but I'd be hard pressed to list the reasons. In the end curiosity won out and we ended up going tasting at seven or eight wineries over the weekend. I never got sick of it!
Like I said, I am no wine expert, but in terms of the tasting experience itself my two favorite wineries to visit were Velo Vino and Tamber Bey. Velo Vino is a winery owned by the Clif bar family. Their tasting room is filled with friendly people and healthy snacks that are made from local organic ingredients. The tasting includes some delicious nut pairings, and they waive the tasting fee if you buy a (reasonably priced) bottle. The people at Tamber Bey were also super friendly and totally willing to help educate my somewhat ignorant self. Oh, also, their wine tasting comes with gourmet cookie pairings. Yes. Cookies! Awesome.
Needless to say, I came home with a TON of wine. I decided to put some of it (the cheaper stuff) to use making one of my favorite wine inclusive dishes, pasta bolognese. I made both a meat and mushroom version simultaneously using the same methods. This sauce is so incredibly rich, that even the mushroom version is sure to please vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
First, chop up and brown a ton of veggies.
Then, brown the meat (if using) and add the wine and tomatoes.
Simmer for a loooong time to thicken and develop the flavors.
Serve with pasta and fresh herbs.
Active cooking time: 30 minutes (including chopping)
Passive cooking time: 1hr 30 mins (or more)
1 leek, diced small
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1lb ground meat or chopped mushrooms
1 can tomato sauce
2 tbs Tomato paste
1c dry red wine (something you would like drinking)
1c milk (I have not tried it, but I assume you could eliminate for a vegan version and it would still be awesome)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1tsp dried rosemary, thyme or a combination
1. Saute veggies (including mushrooms if you are using them instead of meat) over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized. About 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/2tsp each at this point, we'll add more later).
2. Add meat (if using instead of mushrooms) and cook until browned.
3. Add tomato sauce and paste, stirring and cooking until the sauce reduces enough to coats the veggies instead of being soupy. About 5 minutes.
4. Add the wine, stir, and reduce by half. This should only take a few minutes, depending on your stove.
5. Add the milk and herbs, stir, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the sauce for at least an hour and a half. Check the sauce every 10-15 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too dry and add water as needed. Basically it should be "soupy" enough that is it always bubbling gently. If it isn't it needs some more water. The water will simmer out so don't worry about adding a precise amount.
6. About 20 minutes before you want to eat boil water for the pasta. At this point check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt gradually if needed. The total amount needed really depends on the tomato sauce/paste used so I don't want to give a precise measurement.
7. Cook the pasta until it is almost done--about a minute or two less than the package instructions. Drain the pasta, add it to the sause, and cook it for the final minute or two in the sauce itself. Don't rinse the pasta...the extra gluten helps the sauce really stick to the noodles.
9. Enjoy! I loved mine with red pepper flakes and fresh basil. Mr. C used tons of parmesan. :-)