Italian Wines with Simple Pasta Recipes for National Pasta Month

Everyday Pasta
Americans have always loved the pasta dishes that came here with the millions of Italian immigrants over the past centuries. And, like the Chinese fare we all have loved for at least a century and a half, the traditions from the countries of origin have been tinkered with to take into account the availability of ingredients, the tastes and the traditions of other cultures that came before and after, and the inventiveness of past and recent chefs. Here, I have sought out original versions of two delicious pasta sauces that are quick to prepare and simply delicious. I have one caveat in all these these recipes—use only the BEST ingredients

Garlic Bread, the Real Stuff.
The first time I made this was for a large party about 30 years ago, I ended up in the kitchen the whole evening making more and more because the guest howled for it.

Ingredients: A good crusty baguette or ciabatta lunga, a couple of large cloves of garlic, fruity and flavorful extra virgin oil, and a pastry brush.

Instructions: Slice the bread in half lengthwise and place under broiler until a nice toasty brown. Meanwhile, peel garlic cloves and slice in half. Rub toasted sides of bread thoroughly with fresh garlic. Paint garlicky surface with olive oil and cut into serving sized pieces. Serve warm.

Balsamic Salad Dressing
The secret here is Balsamic Cream, a sweetened balsamic reduction, available in the vinegar section. The sweetness cuts the acidity of the salad dressing so it doesn’t clash with wine. And it only takes a very small amount mixed with olive oil, pressed garlic, mustard, fresh lemon juice and seasonings to make a delicious dressing.

Italian Wines
Italy has more different named growing regions and indigenous grapes than any other country in the world. It is the bane of the wine student seeking to pass exams. But we are keeping it simple here and affordable with a couple of Italian reds. Talk with your Wine Steward and put together a six–pack of Italian wines.

Chianti is still one of those great bargains in wine. Sure you can pay over $30, but you do not have to. In fact, these simple, quick, yet authentic recipes, call for a lighter, less earthy Chianti than you will get with the more expensive ones, which go well with heavier Italian dishes with richer, meatier sauces.

Chianti is NOT a kind of wine or the name of a grape. It is a place. Long before wine grapes came to the New World, European recognized wines by where they came from. The region of Chianti in Tuscany on the Mediterranean side of Italy is actually made up of five sub regions, which includes Chianti Classico. The grape? Sangiovese, 80-90% sometimes blended

TRY: Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico (Wine Enthusiast 90 Points, James Suckling 91 Points) A deftly made Chianti, bright and full-flavored with enough acidity to qualify for a great food wine, pizza and pastas, especially.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is also a delicious and affordable food wine. Montepulciano is a lovely village in Abruzzo, a region in southern Italy on the Adriatic side. It is also the name of the red wine grape of the region. 

TRY: Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
A fresh, mouth filling, juicy red, with delicate aromas of pie cherries and plum, this is made to drink young. It’s surprisingly robust and full-bodied. It is a great comfort food wine and can be slightly cooled before serving

Fast and Fresh Marinara Sauce
A quick week night pasta dinner sauce with a fuss free, delicious sauce, real Italian garlic bread and a simple crisp salad with a balsamic vinaigrette will please the whole family…paired for the adults with a great glass of wine

Authentic (and Quick) Italian Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

  • 4 TBS flavorful extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 or 5 cloves fresh garlic (not in a jar, dried, powdered, or frozen)
  • A small bunch of fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 32 oz. container, glass or box, chopped tomatoes or puree or, preferably, fresh Roma tomatoes if available, diced and mashed
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 or 4 large leaves of fresh basil, wiped with paper towel, not rinsed in water!
  • Parmigiano Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romana to grate
  • To enjoy with pasta as soon as the sauce is ready, put a large pot of salted water on the cooktop over high heat and cook the pasta as directed (if you are using egg or a very quick cooking pasta, do this about half-way through these directions).


  1. Pour oil into a large sauté pan (not a deep pot) over medium heat. Crush garlic and add to oil. Sauté garlic until it just starts to brown, then add the parsley.
  2. Turn the heat up to high. Add tomatoes, and immediately cover with lid for about 30 seconds, until splashing subsides. Lower heat. Uncover and stir with wooden spoon so sauce cooks at a fast simmer, as it is cooked briefly.
  3. Add salt and continue to simmer, stirring often. Sauce will thicken quickly. Don’t overcook so it becomes too thick; 5 to 7 minutes should do the trick. Taste sauce. If it doesn’t taste delicious, it probably needs a little more salt. Turn off heat and add fresh basil (Tear into pieces just before dropping in.)
  4. Add your authentic Italian tomato sauce to drained pasta in the same pot. Save some pasta water to add back into the pasta in case it’s too dry. Plate sauced pasta and top with freshly grated authentic Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Serve with salad and authentic Italian garlic bread.

Easy and Elegant Carbonara

All sorts of stories exist about the origins of this yummy preparation from Rome. It might go back to 18th c. wood cutters or it might have been an invention of WW II. It has a rich texture from the cheese and eggs, a little zing from the cracked black peppercorns, and It is one of those dishes that you can’t believe has only a few ingredients—cheese, eggs, and some piggy bits.

Weeknight Carbonara
Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 pound dry thin spaghetti or linguine
  • 4 fresh large eggs
  • ½ lb. (in one piece) pancetta or fat back or slab bacon, cubed into ½ inch dice
  • ½ C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ C freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly cracked black pepper—lots!
  • Kosher or sea salt


  1. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box, reserving ½ C of the cooking water. Drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced meat and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the meat is crispy and golden. Turn off the heat.
  3. In a small bowl whisk eggs and cheeses until blended.
  4. Return skillet to medium heat, and add half of reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss in the spaghetti and shake the pan over the heat for a few seconds until bubbling stops. Remove pan from heat and add egg mixture and stirring quickly until eggs start to thicken. Residual heat will cook eggs so work quickly to prevent them from scrambling. If sauce seems too thick, thin it out with a bit more reserved pasta water.
  5. Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper. Taste for seasoning. Depending on pork used, it may not need any more salt.
  6. Divide pasta into bowls and serve immediately.

Roz Mayberry

About Roz:
During her distinguished career, Roz has served a term as the Retail Representative on the MDA's Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council and Continues to serve on their Promotion & Education and Competition Committees. In addition, she has served as a judge in various national and international wine competitions.

Working with D&W's wine stewards and SpartanNash's vendor partners, Roz tirelessly explores the vast world of wine, discovering the finest wines for every budget and every taste. And she loves to discuss food and wine with customers and colleagues. As a lifelong foodie, there is nothing else she'd rather be doing.