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Rigatoni Caprese and Dueling Chianti

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Last night I hosted my monthly wine club meeting, which happened to be Italian themed! I asked the group to bring Italian food and wine, and we had a selection of blind wines from some of the major regions in Italy: Chianti from Tuscany, Nero D’Avola from Sicily, and Barbera from Piemonte.  One of my friends brought a Tuscan Kale Salad, and KDD made stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto. My contribution was rigatoni with tomato, basil and mozzarella – a Morrison family favorite side dish that my mother and I make all summer long. And even though summer might be coming to an end in San Francisco, I can still get fresh basil and cherry tomatoes!

wine tasting

Rigatoni Caprese (serves 8)

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup fresh basil, julienned
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb Rigatoni pasta

Boil a large pot of water over a high flame. Meanwhile, combine first ten ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning and proportions and adjust if desired.


Once the water is boiling, add a pinch of salt and then add the pasta. Cook for 12-14 minutes then drain. Add the pasta back to the pot and pour the Caprese mixture over it. Stir to combine, letting the mozzarella melt over the pasta. Transfer to a large serving bowl and enjoy!


This pasta makes a great side dish to any BBQ, potluck dinner or wine tasting event! It’s very easy and inexpensive to make, and always a crowd pleaser.

Myself and the other wine club members agreed that the pasta went best with Chianti; the acid in the wine brought out the flavors in the pasta and complimented the spiciness. The pasta also added some body to the wine, making it more complex than drinking the Chianti on it’s own.

chiantiIt turned out that two people brought the exact same blind wine, a 2011 Fontaleoni Chianti from Tuscany. They were each recommended the wine by two different stores in San Francisco, and paid $16 for the bottle. The crazy thing was that when we tasted the first one, the general consensus was that it was flat, lacking fruit, and nobody really liked it. But when we tasted the other bottle (#3 blind wine of the night), everyone liked it and thought the acidity balance was spot on. The first one may have been open a little bit longer than the other, and we had just tasted a few big Italian reds before we started the blinds, so that may have contributed to it. But we tasted the two side by side after the reveal and concluded that they tasted exactly the same. It just goes to show how many different things can affect your palate!

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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