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Lazio in California: The Quintessential Roman Pasta + 2017 Big Sur Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve #ItalianFWT


Katarina is hosting the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers this month and our theme is Lazio. Read her invitation here.

If you are reading this early enough, feel to  join the group for a live Twitter chat. We'll be live on Saturday, April 3rd at 8am Pacific time. Just follow the hashtag - #ItalianFWT - and be sure to add it to anything you tweet so we can see it. In the meantime, all of these posts will go live before Saturday. Cin cin!


Lazio is home to the capital city of Rome where I lived for thirteen months after I graduated from college. And for reasons beyond my comprehension, I do not have a single post about wines from there. With my love of all things Roman, and having lived there for over a year, you would think I would have written something. Niente. Nothing. 

However, the region has a reputation for easy-drinking, youthful whites such as those produced in the Frascati and Orvieto DOCs. And those are not the wines I typically purchase. I will have to remedy my lack of posts soon. Mi dispiace moltissimo! 

While my blog lacks wine posts from Lazio - since I learned to cook in Rome - there is no dearth of Roman recipes to be had. 

My favorites: Pizza Con PatateSupplì al Telefono, and Stracciatella alla Romana.

But, like my lack of wines from Lazio, I have never posted my process for making the quintessential Roman pasta. So, not only did I decide to share this process for the #ItalianFWT focus on Lazio, Jake and I even made video for our #CulinaryCam YouTube channel. Watch me make Pasta Carbonara...

Changing Focus

Before I made the pasta, my older son made risotto from a kit and I poured a bottle of Alberico Appia Antica 400 Bianco 2017. But somewhere - I don't know where - I noticed that another #ItalianFWT blogger had that same bottle as her focus.  So I changed directions. I went from Italian food kit + wine from Lazio to quintessential Roman pasta + wine from California.

Pasta Carbonara

If ever there was a pasta that, for me, is the embodiment of Rome, it's this. Pasta Carbonara. And I really had no idea how controversial it was - the debate as to whether or not the sauce contains cream. I'll tell you: authentic carbonara does not include cream! It's just a few simple ingredients and can be on  your table in the amount of time it takes your pasta to cook.

Though the ingredient list is short, it's best if you can get the actual ingredients.  First is guanciale which is cured pork jowl. I have a hard time finding that. So I often substitute with pancetta; you can even use bacon in a pinch. But, if you can find guanciale, definitely get that. Second, pecorino romano is an aged sheep's milk cheese. I recently found a  'romano'  that was cow's milk and was completely baffled. I mean, they didn't lie. It's the 'pecorino' part that indicates it's from a sheep. However, I've never seen just 'romano' cheese before. Parmigiano reggiano can be used instead if you wish.

Ingredients serves 6 to 8

  • 400 grams pasta
  • water
  • 8 ounces cubed guanciale (cured pork jowl) or pancetta if you can't find any guanciale
  • olive oil, if needed
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 4 cups grated pecorino romano
  • generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
  • optional: parmigiano reggiano for serving


Bring salted water to a boil. And place your pasta in to cook.

In another pot, place the cubed guanciale and cook it until it has rendered its fat and it nicely browned. Some bits will be crisped, depending on your dice. The bottom should be slick with the fat. If it looks a little dry, you can add a splash of olive oil.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and fold in the grated cheese. Add a generous amount of black pepper, approximately a teaspoon. Scoop in a ladle of the pasta cooking water and whisk to emulsify the sauce.

When the pasta is cooked, add a ladle of the pasta water to the guanciale and turn off the heat completely. The sauce will cook with the residual heat from the pasta and the guanciale. 

Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat with the guanciale fat. Pour in the egg mixture and use tongs to continuously toss. The cheese will melt and the sauce will be turn creamy and coat the pasta. That's what you want.

Once the pasta is nicely coated, add more black pepper and serve immediately.

A California Wine

I explained earlier how I ended up with a dish from Lazio and a wine from California instead of a wine from Italy for this #ItalianFWT event. And I am thrilled to share this bottle with you.  I recently met Lenora of Big Sur Vineyards when she sponsored a virtual cooking class I was teaching. It's somewhat embarrassing to be working with someone when you haven't actually tried any of their wines, isn't it?! So, that weekend, I headed out to Carmel Valley and did a tasting in preparation for our next collaboration and just to get to know another local winery. I ended up taking a bottle of the 2017 Big Sur Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve  home to share with Jake.

The 2017 Reserve is made with grapes sourced from the Gabilan Mountains with much of fruit grown on a combination of granite and limestone. With the vineyard's elevation and location, the vines enjoy both the inland warmth during the days and the cooling marine layer in the evenings.

The wine poured a clear garnet with a rim of gold. On the nose, getting florals doesn't usually surprise me for Pinot Noir, but it's usually rose petal and this was definitely a more herby or grassy geranium. On the palate there was lots of fruit, both red and black, with a splash of spice and citrus. The lively acidity made it the perfect pairing for the creaminess of the pasta carbonara.

That's a wrap for the #ItalianFWT Lazio event. We'll be back next month with a focus on Barbera led by Gwendolyn of Wine Predator. Stay tuned.


  1. As your friend, I loved reading this personal post about your youth! As a foodie, I am aching to travel to Rome and learning what you did about cooking.

    1. Thanks for reading, Terri. I think we're all aching to travel, right?! One of these days we'll get back out there in the world.

  2. I loved the video on Carbonara! I had no idea about the controversy.
    Really liked that you cooked on your back burners, allowing you prep space in front of the pots for assembly! That is so smart!
    BTW - I love the new website design!

    1. Thanks. I've always done that since I don't have any counter space near my behemoth range...and I rarely use all six burners at the same time.

  3. I posted about the Apia but the Rosso. Your carbonara sounds amazing and I love that you found a "local" Lazio.

    1. Oh, nice! I can't wait to read your post. For some reason I assumed you had the same wine I had found.

  4. Love the video, great. Nice that you chose a typical dish from Rome, and paired it with a Pinot Noir.

  5. I love getting this dish when I'm in Rome....when in Rome ; )

  6. cool that you lived in Rome! As always your food looks amazing! Save a seat at the table for me next time EH? ;)


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