Seafood Pasta With Tomatoes, Garlic And Lugana White Wine

This month's Facebook group Italian Food, Wine, Travel is exploring Lugana, a small wine region in northern Italy. Many thanks to the Consorzio di Tutela Vino Lugana DOC for sending samples of their delicious, food-friendly white wines.
We all get stuck in a rut from time to time, whether it’s a job that’s no longer satisfying or an exercise routine that’s no longer challenging. Maybe you’re in a culinary rut. Do you find yourself cooking the same meals over and over, sticking with familiar dishes that you can whip up with your eyes closed? And what about your choice of wine? Drinking the same old Chardonnay or Cabernet week after week, bored to tears but not sure what else to add to your wine repertoire? If that sounds like you, it’s time to try something new. And even if that doesn’t sound like you, with so many wine options available these days, there’s always something new to explore.

But where to begin? Let’s start with a white wine from Italy, a country that grows more than one hundred different white wine grapes (and over a thousand red!). Everybody knows Pinot Grigio and Vermentino, but what about Turbiana? You probably haven’t heard of this Italian grape variety that’s grown in the Lugana area of north-central Italy. The Lugana DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) is a small area of about 100 wine producers on the shores of Lake Garda, only a 30-minute drive from the enchanting city of Verona, and within two hours of the better-known wine regions of Soave and Valpolicella.

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Lugana produces only white wines which contain a minimum of 90% Turbiana, a grape that thrives in the area’s calcareous clay soils (above). The vineyard areas, adjacent to Lake Garda, are cooled in the summer and warmed in the winter by temperate breezes flowing inland from the lake.

The basic Lugana wines, aged for about 6 or 7 months in stainless steel, have enticing floral and citrus notes, refreshing acidity and a ‘wet stone’ mineral quality. The superiore category of Lugana wines are made under stricter quality controls with a minimum of 12 months aging, sometimes, but not necessarily, in oak. Theses wines can be made in a lean and mineral-driven style or, if oak aged, a more intense, rich and structured way. A small amount of three other types of wine are made here: riserva, sweet and sparkling.

With a production of only 16 million bottles each year, many exported to nearby Germany, Lugana wines are not always easy to find in the U.S. market. But since 1990, with the formation of the Lugano wine consortium, more of the wines have been making their way to the U.S. With a little effort, you can find a Turbiana from Lugana and be rewarded with a unique and flavorful white wine.

A classic pairing of Lugano wine is with lake fish (trout, bass, catfish) but any type of seafood, including shellfish, will go terrifically with theses wines. The seafood pasta dish, below, was spot-on with the citrusy flavors in the wine. The superiores or riservas would go well with chicken and pork, in addition to seafood.

Buon Appetito!

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THE WINES:

Citari Conchiglia 2016 (100% Turbiana). This pale yellow, straw colored wine is aged in stainless steel for seven months, with about six of them on its fine lees. Quite aromatic with bright citrus notes, it reminded me of lemon meringue pie.  On the palate there is an initial burst of citrus, along with apple and peach flavors. It finishes with a pleasant creamy mouthfeel.

Malavasi Camilla 2016 (100% Turbiana). Fermented in stainless steel, this straw yellow colored wine has mild fruity and citrusy aromas. On the palate, it’s soft with pleasant acidity, good minerality and delicate notes of ripe pears.

THE DISH:

SEAFOOD PASTA WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC

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(Adapted from Alison Roman’s recipe in The New York Times)

Serves 4

8 ounces rigatoni or another tube-shaped pasta

2 teaspoons sea salt

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

8 garlic cloves, sliced

Pinch of red-pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand

½ pound mussels or clams

1 pound firm-fleshed white fish, such as cod, halibut, swordfish, hake or flounder, cut into 2-inch pieces

½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

¾ cup Castelvetrano or other green olives, pitted and crushed (optional)

½ cup parsley, tender leaves and stems, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Bring a large pot of water (with 1 teaspoon salt added) to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) While waiting for water to boil, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is lightly browned and just beginning to brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red-pepper flakes.

3) Add tomatoes and then fill the empty can about 1/2 of the way up with water. Swirl the can to loosen the bits of tomato left behind and add to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly (it should still look quite brothy), about 10 to 15 minutes.

4) Add the mussels or clams to the sauce. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, stir, and add the fish and shrimp. Season with remaining salt. Let the seafood settle into the brothy tomato sauce and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Cook until the seafood is just cooked through and the mussels or clams have opened.

5) Add the pasta and, very gently, toss to coat. Simmer another 1 to 2 minutes. Add olives, if using, and remove from heat.

6) Divide among bowls, top with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serving with a glass of Lugana white wine.

See what my fellow bloggers have to say about Lugana wine: