A few months ago my friend/fellow wino (a.k.a. Starry) and I came up with a plan to visit Anderson Valley for a weekend of wine tasting. We started to look at lodging options and found a few cheap motels in Ukiah (too far), some nice B&Bs in Mendocino (too expensive), and a few airbnb options for a rustic cabin in the woods. We were intrigued by the cabin idea, and then I came upon this gem in Comptche. Although the title of the rental suggested it would be ideal for a couple, Starry and I are no strangers to sharing close quarters and we’re both big fans of nature. Plus – it was a mere 30 minute drive to the wineries, AND only $75 per night!
Our kitchen was minimal, but included a couple hot plates, a toaster oven, and some basic cooking essentials. We figured pasta would be easy enough, so I brought some homemade pesto, Pecorino, and a box of Baia “Mohawk” pasta that was gifted to me by GGD. On the way into Anderson Valley, we stopped at a market and deli in Boonville and picked up some local pesto chicken sausage, broccoli and Pennyroyal Farms cheese. When we got to the cabin, Starry started a fire and I opened up a special bottle of wine: Paloma 2007 Merlot from Napa Valley. This is one of my favorite bottles, and it did not disappoint! Starry loved it, and it paired perfectly with the Pennyroyal Farmstead Boont Corners cheese that we devoured.
After a rousing game of Scrabble (which I promptly ruined when I stepped on the board), I got started on dinner while Starry tended to our fire. The hot plates took a LONG time to heat up, but in the end the meal came together perfectly and we were very pleased with the quality of all the ingredients.
Almond Pesto (makes 1 cup)
- 2 large garlic cloves
- small handful of raw almonds
- 4 oz fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan
For pesto, chop garlic and almonds in a large food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add basil and continue to process, then add oil in a slow, steady stream while the motor is running. Add salt and cheese and pulse to combine. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small tupperware container. Use within a few days, or freeze.
Pesto Chicken Pasta with Broccoli (serves 2)
- 1 head broccoli, florets only
- 1 TB olive oil
- 2 cups noodle-shaped pasta (I recommend Baia “Mohawk” Pasta)
- 1 pesto chicken sausage, casing removed
- 1/2 cup homemade almond pesto
- salt and pepper
- freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Set oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. In a small pyrex dish combine broccoli florets, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for the pasta and set another large pan over a medium-high flame. Once hot, add sausage and cook until browned, using the back of a wooden spoon to break up the sausage. Once browned, add broccoli and lower heat.
Cook pasta for 10-12 minutes, or until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining. In the empty pot, combine pesto and half of pasta water, stirring to combine. Add more water until you reach desired consistency. Then add sausage and broccoli to pot, stirring to combine into a sauce. Transfer pasta back to the pot and toss to coat in the pesto sauce.
Serve in bowls and top with grated Pecorino. Starry and I enjoyed a 2007 Joseph Swan Zinfandel with this pasta. One would think it would be an odd pairing, but the fruity Zinfandel was able to stand up to the heat in the pasta (from the raw garlic in the pesto), thus bringing out the spice in the wine. It’s also an incredibly tasty wine, and the perfect bottle to finish off an evening in front of the fire.
Admittedly, it really was quite a romantic evening… in a best girlfriends weekend getaway kind of way. More to come on all the great wineries we visited in Anderson Valley!