September 30 is the last day of California Wine Month so I thought I’d pair one of my favorite Italian sauces (as in the Tortellini with Pesto and Sun-dried Tomatoes above) with some California white wines made from Italian varietals. And I added a twist to the pesto that I learned from Luce, one of Bon Appetit’s top 10 best new restaurants in America.
Luce is a very small market and restaurant dedicated to simple Italian cooking in Portland Oregon. Every dish on the menu was so simply made that at first glance, it seems too easy, too sophomoric. But after a bite or two, the flavors this kind of cooking imparts transports you to the traditions of Italy. Bon Appetit called it “bare bones…Italian home cooking at its core.”
The pesto at Luce was made with basil, avocado, almonds, walnuts and garlic. This is pesto in Southern Italy. And it was incredible! The avocado replaces the olive oil, making the dish lighter, full of flavor and oh-so-good for your skin. To make this easy on me to make at home, I used Buitoni pesto as a base, placing about half the container of pesto in a bowl, then mixing in one whole ripe avocado and serving it over al dente pasta. A perfect late summer meal.
I wanted to pair this with an Italian varietal made in California, and I found 2 wines that worked perfectly. Arneis from Palmina Wines has a bright lemony quality, and enough acid to zip along your tongue with the pesto, cutting the oils and balancing the meal perfectly.
Another wine, Bianchetto from Moretti Wines is a blend of 3 Italian varietals from different regions: Arneis, Malvasia Bianca and Tocai Friulano. You won’t see this blend in Italy, but it’s lovely flowery nose and fruit and acid balance also really enhanced the dish.