What to expect: NegroamaroNegroamaro - Black and bitter in Italian, not surprisingly has origins in Southern Italy's Puglia region. An important grape, both on it's own, and as a blending grape. It contributes a rich, slightly rustic mouthfeel to a finished wine and imbues it with a slightly burnt, earthy quality that accentuates the deep, roasted plum and mocha toned fruit.
Penne alla Vodka is not a traditional Italian preparation and searching for its roots leads to a wealth of disinformation and theories. What is fact is that ages ago it was realized that alcohol can help to bring out flavors in tomatoes that cannot otherwise be obtained through any other preparation. This is often why a red sauce will include wine in its list of ingredients. Not only does it help to bring out these flavors but it also imparts its own qualities to the sauce. Penne alla Vodka is a balancing act of flavors. The sweet sautéed garlic and onions play against the woodsy and smoky pancetta. The crushed red pepper provides a heat that is kept in check by the addition of heavy cream, which also rounds out any rough edges left behind by the vodka. The tomatoes take center stage providing a deep, fresh, succulent tomato flavor that, I find, can only be achieved in this dish. Lastly, the basil grounds you in reality with an earthy, vegetal mistiness, which brings it all together… God I love Penne alla Vodka!