Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chianti at Home: DaVInci Portobello Bolognese

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It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I was chosen as a DaVinci
Filippo Volpi
Storyteller. Still, I can remember the rush of emotions I felt when I thought about the opportunities, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that would lie ahead at the DaVinci Cantine.  Sure, I knew I would learn all about the winemaking process. I knew I would meet the marketing team, the oenologist, the growers, etc.. I knew we would travel the Tuscan countryside and immerse ourselves in the local color, and what it truly means to be Tuscan.  But, what I didn’t know, is how it would impact my life and change me, change my habits and my outlook.  Chianti has done this for me. Chianti has become one of my true loves in life

What I adore, is the reverie that the Tuscan people have for the Sangiovese grape. I can’t really explain it other than, Tuscans regard the earth and that which grows from it, as another member of their family, especially this grape. I absolutely love this affection. I think it’s what is missing from American culture. 

Since my experience at the DaVinci Cantine, I am rarely without a bottle of Chianti in my home, whether it be Chianti Riserva, or perhaps a Brunello reserved for that special occasion.  I’ll admit, I always have a bottle out on the counter, even if I’m not opening it. This may sound crazy to the average person, but this wine, I feel, is like someone that I know. An old friend.

I know who she gets along with (food-wise), and I know I can take her to parties and she will be a hit!  She is an old friend from Tuscany; I know her roots, and she is my friend for life.

Since my roots are Italian, Chianti and I share a special relationship. If you try any of my recipes, you will see that DaVinci Chianti makes an appearance quite a bit. This is because I believe that it not only pairs so well with red sauce- dishes, but enhances the dish as an actual ingredient, as well.  So, I had an idea that was inspired by our last day in Tuscany, a day trip to Florence.

Sangiovese grapes
When we were in the San Lorenzo Mercato in Florence, we noticed bushels of gorgeous dried porcini mushrooms. Well, I just about gasped for air, as they were a fantastic price! Unfortunately, they could not be transported back to The States if they were not vacuum packed. So, I had to pass on those. But, I have been pining for them, and I wanted to make a recipe inspired by those porcinis, and I finally came up with a real stunner!

I have adapted my traditional meat Bolognese sauce, and substituted a flavorful, “meaty” Portobello mushroom, which I think works quite well with this kind of sauce with a little “weight” to it.  The result is a deeply flavored and complex sauce, earthy from the mushrooms and rosemary, smokey from the bacon, and rich from the light cream.

And, even though it is, essentially, vegetable-based, I took the liberty of adding bacon as the cooking fat which laces a smokey undertone that I really love. It surely can be omitted if you prefer to keep the sauce vegetarian.

As you can see, the recipe is simple, yet complex, and if taste had a feel, it would feel like a giant warm hug 



2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of carrot, fine chopped
1 cup of onion,fine chopped
1 rib of celery, fine chopped
3 garlic cloves, pushed through garlic press
5 cups of Portobello mushrooms (finely diced)
5 ounces of bacon, finely diced
3/4 cup of tomato paste
1 cup of light cream (may use half and half)
1 1/2 cups of Da Vinci Chianti
½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
A couple pinches of smoked sea salt
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for grating
1 pound of fettuccine pasta


1.)  In a Dutch oven or, heavy bottom large sauce pan, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the bacon and allow to crisp a bit.

2.) Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic, and sweat down for about 15 minutes, until vegetables are translucent, but not browned.

3.) Add the Portobello mushrooms and rosemary, and stir to incorporate with the vegetables medley.

4.) Add the tomato paste and stir to thoroughly combine. Then, add the Da Vinci Chianti, and stir to incorporate. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

5.) Finally, add the cream and stir thoroughly.

6.) Add a couple pinches of smoked sea salt. Allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes on very low heat.

*Serve with fettucine, or over creamy polenta.  *Optional: Dusting of grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

2012 Stortellers


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