Easy Weeknight Food & Wine

One of the things I’ve learned is that wine is something that should be enjoyed every day. I like to treat wine like a part of life, like cooking. It can be prohibitively expensive, and that scares a lot of people off. It’s hard to find a great California wine in the $15-$25 range; it’s even harder to find good wines cheaper than that. Wine is one of those things where, unfortunately, quality often dictates price. However, you can find some exceptional values in some of the less “popular” wine varietals such as Syrah and Carignan, in rosé wines, and in those which are grown in lesser-known AVAs.

I also think people don’t cook at home enough. Our busy lifestyles have created a culture where people often eat out for every meal of the day. It’s so hard to maintain a healthy diet when you are letting someone else prepare your food and you have no control over what is going into it. Additionally, eating out is expensive. Cooking at home may be cheaper, but it’s also time-consuming and exhausting. I prefer to prepare easy but delicious meals on weeknights.

One of my favorite weeknight meals is fresh ravioli from The Pasta Shop. This is a local purveyor of freshly made pasta with exceptional quality ingredients. You can buy them by the pound at their flagship store (linked above) or in many local grocery stores & Farmer’s Markets across the Bay Area. A package of fresh pasta is around $5 (serves 3-4) and a package of the fresh ravioli is anywhere from $8-$13 (serves 2 as an entree) depending on what the filling is.

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Every weekend I buy a package of these ravioli from the Pasta Shop stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Preparation is super simple. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the ravioli, then simmer for 6.5 minutes. Drain, then toss with good olive oil and a handful of fresh arugula leaves. Place into bowls, grind some fresh black pepper over the top, give a good grating of aged organic Parmesean and voila! One of the best meals you could imagine in less than 15 minutes.

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Tonight is our Ravioli night and this week I bought the Sweet Onion & Red Chard ravioli in Roasted Red Pepper pasta. This is totally vegetarian and $10 per pack. It’s not cheap by any means but you would easily pay $15-$20 for a plate of these ravioli in a restaurant. These aren’t your Chef Boyardee ravioli of yesteryear. They are unbelievable.

The wine I am serving with the ravioli is Broc Cellars 2011 Carbonic Carignan. This wine is fresh, juicy, fruity, lightly tannic, medium bodied and slightly herbaceous. Carignan is often used as a blending grape but is catching momentum in California as a varietal wine. They are generally very easy to drink and inexpensive. I think it will pair nicely with tonight’s pasta.

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This wine is made in a similar style as Beaujolais called Carbonic Maceration. It produces a wine that is generally lighter in body, fruity, fresh, easy to drink when young, and can be slightly herbaceous because of the stem contact during fermentation. I like to pair slightly-vegetal tasting wines with vegetarian food since they seem to really play nicely together. This particular wine is drinking nicely right now, I highly recommend you drop by the Broc Cellars tasting room in Berkeley to try it yourself and maybe go home with a bottle or three.