As honest and loyal consumers of good and quality food, as well as admirers of the culture that is hiding behind this great pleasure, let's admit that after mother's food and the traditional local taverna, what has won us over is Italian cuisine (the italics were not entered by accident).
This now global phenomenon has so many characteristics in common with the Greek one, to the point that sometimes you think you were eating melon with prosciutto from a cot... The passage, from the house of the Italian housewife to ours and at the same time to luxury restaurants happened very quietly! It won over every difficult palate because it was always familiar, accessible, and above all delicious!
Over the centuries it was defined by the cultural influences and enriched by the cuisines of the countries it conquered. The spices of the East, the seafood of the Mediterranean, and the grains of Africa were the perfect additions to its hitherto simplistic and "poor" backbone. Of course, with the fall of the Roman Empire and until today, each region acquired its own identity. In short, if you travel to Italy, you will not eat the perfect pizza and the perfect pasta everywhere! Of course, olive oil, oregano, basil, tomato sauce, a huge variety of cheeses and cured meats, cereals, and of course garlic remain the protagonists!
This week's challenge was to combine traditional Italian dishes and appetizers with the right Greek wines as if they were born for each other! Let's see…
Arancini is an appetizer, but can also be eaten as a main meal. The name arancia means orange and betrays its shape and color! It was the favorite "food in the tupper" of Frederick II, who accompanied him on the hunt. They are native to Sicily and are rice balls made of porridge rice, saffron, herbs, garlic, and egg, stuffed with parmesan and spicy cheeses. Deep frying gives it a rich, salty, and fatty effect, which needs a white wine with lemon aromas and refreshing acidity to refresh the palate from the above elements. San Ta Maratha- Syros Winery is just that.
Polenta with mushrooms
The most characteristic dish of Northern Italy is polenta and it was the staple food of the poor peasants, the potent one. It has the texture of puree (but if you don't eat it hot you will cut it with a knife!) and is made from semolina or cornmeal boiled in water, with butter and cheese. The oiliness of the base blends perfectly with the sauteed mushroom with thyme, garlic, and tarragon. It is highly addictive, with a creamy rich texture and what it needs is a Chardonnay with a fruity character, moderate acidity, and a slight cask character. With Chardonnay-Aivalis Winery makes a very elegant combination.
Or otherwise "the epitome of simplicity". The colors betray the origin, since it is the flag of its country! The easiest Italian dish with a wealth of colors, aromas, and flavors. Red ripe tomatoes, fresh fat mozzarella, a "pot" of fresh basil, and of course olive oil, coarse salt, and pepper. All are thinly sliced, mixed, or arranged. Nothing could match better than white wine with a soft vegetal character, fresh aromas, and balanced acidity. Try it with Kompsos White- Karavitakis Winery or Sauvignon Blanc- Domaine Florian.
Saltimbocca alla Romana
On a supposed Italian cuisine celebrity list, Saltimbocca alla Romana would be a jump above pizza (yes, you read that right) and just below carbonara! In its native place Rome, they called it "jump to the mouth". Thinly sliced beef fillets, wrapped in prosciutto crudo, pan-seared with wine, butter, and sage. The fatty and salty elements, the protein, and the intense aromas of sage match red wine with a medium body and acidity with a fruity character and moderate tannins. And this is Finikas Red-Drouva Winery!
You can't resist this small and crunchy Italian dessert! The first pastry chefs were the monks of a monastery in Caltanissetta in Sicily, who were preparing them for Carnival. Rolls of thin dough made of flour, cinnamon, orange, and sugar, become crispy as they are cooked in oil. The filling is ricotta, mascarpone, dried chopped fruit, and vanilla. Not much is needed here, just combine it with Liastos from Romeiko-Karavitakis Winery and all will be good. Just make sure it's frozen!
The best cuisine to experiment with (even if it's not your thing) is Italian. With a few ingredients, you can easily have gourmet results! And this is its magic, since simplicity brings quality. Set the kitchen on fire and play Felicità by Albano e Romina in the background, who since 1982 were been talking about the luxury of simplicity singing "È un bicchiere di vino"!