The Sicilian pasta dish “Pasta alla Norma” is the comfort food you start to get hungry for in August. But the reality is, you still are in the grip of summer’s heat. My version of this Sicilian pasta dish incorporates the August harvest of eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and fresh oregano with some Italian sausage. The fresh produce lightens the dish, but the pasta adds the comfort factor. I paired this Sicilian pasta with a French Basque Rosé full of flavor, yet cooling and refreshing, after all, it is still summer.
This month the French Winophiles are taking a closer look at wines produced in the Basque region of France. This small wine-growing region is located in the southwest corner of France. (map here for orientation.) If you are a wine lover that appreciates terroir-driven wines, explore the region with us and join in on our Twitter chat Saturday, August 17th at 11:00 AM ET. (Use hashtag #winophiles to follow the Twitter chat).
More About The French Basque Wine growing region
- The village of Irouléguy (ee-RHOO-lay-ghee) is the region’s heart and namesake of the only AOC.
- There are 519 acres of cultivated vineyards producing 550,000 liters of wine annually. 70% of the production is red, 20% rosé, and 10% white wines.
- Red grape varieties include; Cabernet Franc, Tannat, and Cabernet Sauvignon
- White grape varieties include; Courbu, Petit Courbu, Gros Manseng, and Petit Manseng
- The climate is maritime with a heavy influence from the Pyrenees mountain range.
- Most vineyards are planted along narrow terraces on steep hillsides with soils rich in sandstone and Jurassic limestone.
My Tasting Notes
2014 Domaine Brana Harri Gorri Rosé, Irouléguy AOC
13.5% abv | ~$30.00 | 70% Tannat 30% Cabernet Franc
Domaine Brana planted its first vineyards in 1984 in the Irouléguy AOC. The estate currently has just under 57 acres of cultivated vineyards. They were one of the early vintners in the region to plant on a large scale after phylloxera devastated many of the region’s vineyards over a century ago. Domaine Brana uses non-intervening farm practices, including biodynamic principles. The grapes are manual harvested.
The rosé wine takes its name “Harri Gorri,” which is basque for red stones referring to the red sandstone found in the Pyrenees. The rosé was produced using the saignée method.
Medium to deep copper in color. Medium (+) bodied and acidity. On the palate a chalky acidity with notes of plums, spices, and lingering complex flavors.
Food Pairing Notes
This rustic pasta with multiple elements of flavors from the acidity in the tomatoes, to the rich slightly spicy sausage, and bold eggplant is met with the Irouléguy Rosé. The wine matches the acidity in the tomatoes and balances the rich, spicy sausage. The medium (+) body and complex flavors of the wine stand up to the overall flavor elements and weight of the pasta dish. Not only does this Rosé complement the Sicilian pasta alla Norma but is a refreshing pairing to the dish.
- 2 medium globe eggplants ( about 1-1/2 lbs total) cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, each cut across to make 1-inch square pieces
- kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 lb. Italian mild sausage, bulk or casings removed
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon Piment d' Espelette
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- 1 cup Parmesan, finely grated
Put the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher sea salt. Toss. Set aside for 1-2 hours, this will draw out the excess moisture. When you are ready to sauté the eggplant, spread the pieces out on a tea towel or paper towel and blot off the moisture and salt. Give them a gentle squeeze to remove any remaining moisture.
Heat 1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes or just when it starts to turn a light golden color.
Add the Italian sausage to the pan, breaking it up into small pieces as the the meat browns. When the meat is browned, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon.
If the pan looks dry, add another 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the eggplant pieces in a single layer (this will take several batches to cook). Sauté the eggplant stirring and tossing to brown all the sides. Cook until they are golden and tender, about 8-10 minutes per batch.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, and Piment d' Espelette, salt and pepper. Sauté stirring until the tomatoes start to break down and a juicy sauce develops. Add the browned sausage back to the pan and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2-3 good pinches of salt. Add the rigatoni and cook 1 minute less than what the package recommends. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and add it to the eggplant mixture. Stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes to combine. Add half of the parmesan cheese and stir. If the mixture is too dry stir in a little pasta water.
Serve with remaining parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
More on the French Basque Wine Growing Region from the French Winophiles
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “A Geography Snafu + Poulet Basquaise with Domaine Illaria Irouleguy 2016”
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “French Poets, Philandering Kings and little sweetness from Jurançon“
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Match Made in Heaven; Jurançon Sec and Instant Pot Shrimp Boil”
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “French Basque Rosé Paired with Sicilian Pasta“
- Oliver at In Taste Buds We Trust shares “Domaine Brana : Showing the Way in Irouléguy”
- Cynthia and Pierre at Traveling Wine Profs share “Celebrating the Revival of Irouléguy“
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Madiran: French Basque Wine of Pyrenees With Pixtos“
- Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Basque-ing in Irouléguy Wines and More”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Basque Chicken and Irouléguy, Perfect Winter Dish on the Hottest Day of the Summer”