Italian Night – Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Gluten Free Pasta Dinner

Mo Wine Please

~Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy~

Things I learned this weekend: Over-ripe tomatoes make the best pasta sauce, sometimes farm stands will sell these over-ripe tomatoes for a discounted price, gluten free pasta is not bad and a meal is made even more delicious when paired with a killer Italian wine chosen by someone who really knows his stuff.

I spent the last 5 days in Minneapolis at the home of my college roommate, Catherine, and her dear husband Pete.

I was in Minneapolis to attend The Sits Girls’ Bloggy Boot Camp. (There’s so much to tell you about that but it will have to wait until later in the week. Stay tuned….)

It was also the perfect excuse to go hang out with my buddy.  Thank you Catherine and Pete for your hospitality!

In college, Catherine and I trudged our way through accounting classes together, took jobs with the same firm in Chicago, started work on the exact same day, had an apartment together (along with our 3rd Musketeer, Clare) and married men with the same name who are also both accountants.

We are pretty much the same person.

We are both lucky enough to have husbands who love to cook and love to learn about wine.

After a full day of sightseeing , Catherine and I stopped by the local farm stand to pick up some over-ripe tomatoes, then stopped at Whole Foods for her gluten free pasta before heading home to watch Pete transform them into a delicious, rustic Italian dinner.

Italian wine with Pasta

Pete apologizes that there is no recipe for his from-scratch-sauce but here is the rough list of ingredients:

  • 10 Over-ripe tomatoes, cut into hefty chunks
  • A whole onion cut however you prefer (diced, thin rings, hefty chunks)
  • A couple of globs of garlic (In the interest of time, Peter used garlic from a jar much to his wife’s horror.  It was probably equivalent to a head of garlic and worked just fine.)
  • Handfuls of fresh basil given a rough chop. (Save some basil for garnish.)
  • Rosemary – as much as you like
  • One jalapeno diced pretty fine
  • A little sugar
  • A few glugs of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rustic Italian Sauce

Pete simmered these ingredients on the stove until everything was soft enough to mash with a potato masher, maybe 20 minutes or so. He gave the concoction about an 80% mashing, letting some chunks remain to give the sauce a hearty texture.

(By the way, this “recipe” is exactly the kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cooking I prefer and why I will never become a food blogger. Just to let you know.)

Pete also sautéed a bunch of mushrooms and a couple of mild Italian sausages (cooked then cut into medallions) to top off the dish.

In large pasta bowls, Pete poured generous amounts of sauce over the gluten free noodles then added the toppings: mushrooms for Catherine because she can’t eat sausage, sausage for me because I DON’T eat mushrooms and both for Pete because he has no allergies or aversion to food of any kind. Our plates were garnished with snips of fresh basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Rustic Italian Sauce with Gluten Free Pasta

Yumm and double yumm!

Pete paired this delicious pasta dish with a 2007 Castellum Vetus Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane ($29 – $34 and available online) from Italy.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a red Italian wine made from the Montepulciano grapes grown in – you got it – the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy.  This is one of the most widely exported wines in Italy. It is generally characterized by softer tannins, a deep color and often with pepper or spice notes. It is definitely best served with food.  Although usually consumed young, it can be cellared and enjoyed a decade later.  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, by Italian law, must have an alcohol level of 12%. When that question comes up on trivia night you can thank me.

The 2007 Castellum Vetus Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane is from a small area within Abruzzo called the Colline Teramane DOCG.  The wine is described as exhibiting deep red and violet color, with an aroma of blueberry and blackberry. You might also get a hint of vanilla and cocoa. It was a beautiful looking wine that matched perfectly with the delicious, rustic pasta dish Pete created for us.

montepulciano d'abruzzo

The 2003 vintage of this wine was a Double Gold Winner at the 2006 San Francisco Wine Competition.

If you are looking for a little less expensive version of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, you might want to check out this recommendation from Bounty Hunter Rare Wines. The 2011 Ausonia Apollo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($15.95 at Bounty Hunter) is described as:

“An incredible find from our latest venture to Italy. It’s a fun, delicious crowd pleaser with depth and finesse. Blackberries, sweet wood smoke and a backbone of exotic spice make for a wine that keeps disappearing from the glass.”

As always, choose a wine that fits the price point you are comfortable with.

Pete and Catherine have traveled extensively throughout Italy and know more about Italian wine than I ever will. That’s ok. We can’t all be experts about every wine growing region in the world. It would be boring and we’d probably come across as pompous wine snobs. That’s no good.

The important thing when trying wines from regions that are new to you is to do some research. Whether that means talking to your knowledgeable pals or your trusted wine store staff or consulting with Professor Google, the information is out there for you to use.  Have fun with the process!

Do you have a favorite Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

(FYI This is not a paid post, just me talking about the incredible meal served to me by dear friends.)

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Old friends, tasty food and the perfect wine…what could be better?? Sounds like a lovely time, Mo!!

  2. That looks better than any restaurant dish!!!
    Glad you enjoyed your time with your friends in addition to getting to attend the bloggy conference!

  3. That pasta dish looks amazing!! I am fly by the seat of my pants in the kitchen too! It’s so hard for me to measure anything…which is why I can’t bake at all. It sounds like you had a great time…time with friends and BBC!! Can’t wait to hear all about it! I’m excited for Dallas next month!

  4. Oh, that dinner looked fantastic…and oh so tasty! You got to see good friends AND go to Bloggy Bootcamp?! How wonderful! It sounds like it was a fantastic and winetastic time! –Lisa

    • Winetastic! What a great description. My friends love wine as much as I do so and they had great fun picking out special wines for me to try. Yes, thank you!!

  5. Ooooo do tell about Bloggy Bootcamp! Never been!
    Cooking sans recipes is how they do it in the Old Country.

    Love the sound of this wine! You captured its essence perfectly.

    • I hadn’t thought about that, Deanna. My husband’s grandmother came from Italy and I remember him saying that she never had a recipe and just measured by handful or by sight.

  6. That sounds really good! What really cracks me up about the recipe is the use of “a little of this”, and “a glob of that”. That’s how my husband cooks and it drives me crazy. I’m one of those people who need exact measurements. So, he says, “Just toss a pinch in.” I say, “What’s a pinch? A teaspoon? Half a teaspoon?”

    Can’t wait to hear all about BBC Minneapolis!

    • Hahaha! I’m pretty precise with everything else so it’s kind of odd that I’m ok with this kind of loosey-goosey-ness. Go figure!

  7. i am not a fan of wine outside of our wine country, but i do enjoy a glass of montepulciano every once in a while. we bought a case when we were on our honeymoon in italy so i clearly like it! i cannot wait to hear about BBC!

    • I know nothing about Italian wine. It was nice to try something new, especially since I knew the folks who picked it out have excellent taste!

  8. That looks delicious. I love gluten free pasta, especially Trader Joe’s corn pasta and Quinoa pasta. I’m a fly by the seat of your pants cook also. Happy SITS day!

  9. Well this is timely. My brother is coming over for dinner and guess what? We’re having pasta! Perfect.
    Love to hear more about BBC – so enticing that it will be in San Diego next year. That’s just a hop and a skip from Vancouver… hmmm.
    Kelly McKenzie recently posted…Potential Turkey of a ThanksgivingMy Profile

  10. I’m making that sauce, Mo! I like to cook the way your husband does. And that added jalapeno makes it sound so good. I think you might have a food blog going, like it or not.
    Susan Michael Barrett recently posted…Practicing diligence (maintaining practice). My first meditation with Thây (and my butt goes to sleep).My Profile


  1. […] Last weekend I attended Bloggy Boot Camp, run by the fabulous SITS Girls, Tiffany Romero and Francesca Banducci. This one-day learning extravaganza was held in Minneapolis so as a side benefit I got to spend some time with my dear friends Catherine and Pete. […]

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