Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

Posted by Becca On January - 25 - 20113 COMMENTS

As I’ve mentioned before, I love mushrooms and could eat them every day.  I also love pasta dishes.  So when I found this recipe that combined both of my loves, I had to try it.  The original recipe called for a packaged mix of pre-sliced mushrooms called the “exotic mushroom blend” (shiitake, cremini, & oyster mushrooms).  The only thing my grocery store had that came close to this was the freeze-dried mushrooms that needed to be reconstituted, but they did have fresh baby bellas (also known as cremini) and fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I decided to go with the fresh mushrooms and, of course, was very happy with the results.


  • 1 lb. uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups  thinly sliced fresh shiitake & cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley


Cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.  Cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Combine the mushroom mixture, pasta, whipping cream, cheese, and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat.

Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.


This dish is is best described as “creamy goodness.”  To balance out the whipping cream and cheese combined with the earthiness of the fresh mushrooms, you need a wine that is subtle and sweet.  I like to turn to Master Plan Vineyard’s Chardonnay for this balance.  It has just a hint of oak that complements the fresh mushrooms beautifully and a moderate sweetness that reminds me of fresh apples or pears.


I think that a creamy pasta dish should be a staple meal in every household across the country.  It’s something that is comforting and familiar.  This one adds a little twist to the standard by incorporating a variety of fresh mushrooms that are not always found in this type of dish.  Since it is something that I view as a staple with a twist, I like to put on an album that is, in my mind, a staple of the rock world: U2’s The Joshua Tree. It is one of the highest selling albums of all time, making it something familiar and comforting.  At the same time, though, I never fail to discover new and surprising things every time I hear it.

Italian Spinach Braid

Posted by Becca On August - 16 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This dish has recently become one of my favorites because it is just fun.  It’s fun to make, fun to eat, and incredibly yummy.  It is a pretty flexible dish that can be served as a meal or as an appetizer.  It reheats very well, even in the microwave which I thought would make the bread soggy.  It seems to be a pretty kid friendly dish (just don’t tell them there is spinach in it), particularly when served with pizza sauce for dipping.


  • 1 loaf (1 lb) frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 8 oz roughly chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Romano/Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Pizza sauce (optional) for dipping


Roll thawed dough into a 12×9 rectangle.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain any fat and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.

Spread beef mixture lengthwise down the center of dough.  On each long side, cut 1 inch wide strips 3 inches into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling.  Pinch the ends to seal.  Brush with egg white.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with pizza sauce.


Something that so closely, but not quite, resembles pizza just cannot be paired with a wine.  I love wine but it just doesn’t seem quite right with this dish.  So, instead, I turn to something much more fun (not to say that wine isn’t fun): beer.  While I generally prefer imported beers, there is one American brewery that I enjoy immensely and that is Samuel Adams.  They have a great range of beers that can meet the tastes of almost everyone.  I particularly like to pair this dish with their Summer Ale, one of their (obviously) seasonal brews.


A dish as fun to make as this one deserves music that is equally fun and joyful; music that you just can’t help but get up and move with it is playing.  For this, there is no better musician than Bob Marley whose music is about celebration, love, and carries within it a pure joy for life.   I dare anyone to not be moved to dance and sing along when Marley’s music is playing.  Though I love all of his music, my favorite album to listen to for this dish is Legend, which covers a nice spectrum of his songs.

Baked Ziti

Posted by Becca On July - 28 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Baked ziti is a dish that fits several of my requirements for a good meal: it it simple to make, doesn’t take very long, is delicious and hearty, and it makes wonderful leftovers.  It is a very flexible recipe that can use ingredients made from scratch (the marinara), and fresh chopped vegetables if you have the time.  You can also shorten the prep time significantly by using pre-cooked pasta and store purchased marinara (I really like Classico’s Triple Mushroom sauce) if you are in a time crunch.  I usually make this dish with Italian sausage but it is just as tasty as a vegetarian meal.


  • 6 oz ziti
  • 2 cups marinara or 1 jar of pasta sauce
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 6 oz ground Italian sausage (optional)
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil pasta until tender and drain.  Brown sausage.

Coat and 8 1/2 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine pasta, pasta sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, salt, pepper sauce, and browned sausage in  baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cup of mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


The Tabasco and Italian sausage in this dish give it just a little bit of a kick so it is best when paired with a red wine that is a little more on the mellow side.  I recently discovered just such a wine when I purchased La Vieille Ferme‘s 2008 red.  It’s a bit fruity, which complements the ziti beautifully.


This meal is, on the surface, very simple and hearty.  However, it has that little hint of spice because of the Tabasco and Italian sausage.  You can also have some variety in the way in which it is prepared, depending on your mood.  It can have meat or can go vegetarian.  You can alter a lot of the flavor depending on what type of pasta sauce you decide to use.  Because of this, I like music that, on the surface may come across as simple but really holds a great deal of variety and complexity.  There is no better band than Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, particularly their first album Burn to Shine.  It is incredibly varied stylistically, yet is often rooted in blues and folk.

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Posted by Becca On July - 12 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

I got this recipe from an old friend.  It has been in my repertoire for quite some time now and it is a HUGE favorite in my household for a number of reasons.  It’s fairly quick and simple to make, uses inexpensive ingredients,  and it is wonderful as left-overs.  I like to make it early in the week or over a weekend so I can take a hearty home cooked meal with me to work, reheat it in the microwave, and it still tastes great.  If you don’t have the time to chop all the vegetables, you can easily use pre-chopped or canned items.


  • 1 lb Italian Sausage
  • 1 pkg rotini pasta, cooked
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 pt. half & half
  • ground pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper, dash
  • course salt to taste


In a large skillet, brown the sausage, crumble and set aside.

In the same skillet (needs to be large enough to hold remainder of ingredients, sausage, and pasta when everything is cooked), saute the onion in olive oil for 2 minutes.  Add garlic for 1 minute; add the mushrooms for 2 minutes; add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, ground pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt.  Cook for 2 minutes more.

Add half & half and cheese; stir together until the sauce is smooth

Add sausage and cooked noodles.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Artichoke hearts or sliced black olives may be added to this dish.


Because I got this recipe from a friend, I like to pair it with one of her favorite wines: Fat Bastard Shiraz.  It is a full bodied, sweeter red and it goes perfectly with the density of the sausage, cream, and Parmesan cheese in the dish.  This wine also adds a layer to this wonderful “comfort food” meal with its hint of peppery sweetness.


As I’ve already stated, this dish is comfort food.  It is simple, understated, hearty, and very, very delicious.  A meal such as this one is complemented most by music that matches its simplicity.  And because it has become a household staple, it must be paired with music which is also a favorite.  The two albums that meet all these requirements are Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s Deja Vu and Eric Clapton Unplugged.  The simplicity of the acoustic guitar paired with the musical genius of these artists never fails to hit the spot.

Angel Hair with Balsamic Tomatoes

Posted by Becca On July - 1 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This is a great dish to serve on days when you want something light and easy.  The really cool thing about this one is that it can either be a vegetarian dish or served with Italian sausage, depending on your mood or preferences.  I have used both sausage links and ground sausage; both are great, but I generally like the links better.


  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5 to 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
  • optional: mild Italian sausage links, sliced or ground Italian sausage, browned


Place tomatoes, salt & pepper, basil and balsamic vinegar in a non-reactive bowl and set aside for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Boil pasta until tender

Saute the garlic in olive oil until lightly browned (make sure you use a skillet large enough to hold the tomatoes later).  Drain the tomatoes and discard the remaining juice.  Toss the drained tomatoes in the skillet briefly just to heat them; they should retain their shape.

Toss the pasta and tomato mixture together.

Note: if you are including the sausage in the dish, lightly brown the sausage in the skillet before sauteing the garlic.  Remove and keep warm.  Toss with the pasta and tomato mixture.


Even though this is a lighter dish, the robustness of the Roma tomatoes combined with the balsamic vinegar is enough to stand up to a bolder red wine, especially if the sausage is included.  A few of my favorites are Bodega Norton’s Malbec or Il Bastardo’s Sangiovese di Toscana.


This dish requires bands that are more on the fun and funky side of the spectrum.  I absolutely love Blind Melon’s self titled album or even Paul Simon’s Negotiations and Love Songs.  If I’m really feeling funky, When I Woke by Rusted Root always delivers great tracks for dancing with abandon (just be careful when chopping the veg).