Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Dishing up an offer ‘You can’t refuse’

Summertime has come early this year with an extended period of San Diego -like weather, featuring warm temperatures, low humidity and cool nights. As a result, I transitioned earlier than normal from the full-bodied wines of winter to lighter and more refreshing whites and reds that are better suited to warmer weather. Likewise, my food choices have also morphed from heavier, protein-centric dishes to lighter vegetable and fruit enhanced meals.

Today, I’ll share a recipe with you for a summertime pasta dish that is light and healthy. It’s also delicious when accompanied by either of the two Italian white wines I’m recommending as pairing partners. And while each of the wines is made with different grapes, grown in distinctly diverse regions of the country, each bottle pairs exceptionally well with the pasta dish.

While Italian cuisine is considered world-class, the ingredients used to create dishes are simple and mainly local and farm fresh. Unlike French cuisine, which relies heavily on the addition of cream, butter and animal fat, Italian food is lighter and healthier. The main source of fat used to cook Italian dishes is olive oil which is universally considered healthy by medical experts. And when Italians do consume saturated fats -like cheese, prosciutto and sausage, – they do so in moderation, and then they sip a glass or two of wine to de-clog their arteries.

As a Magna cum Laude graduate of Whatsamata U, my credentials as a certified expert on all things Italian is beyond reproach. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have memorized every legendary line in the “Godfather” movies, and I do know a thing or two about Italian wine and food. So today, I’m gonna make you ‘an offer you can’t refuse.’ The following recipe, along with complementary wine pairing recommendations, is the offer you won’t want to refuse.

Vino e Pasta

One -half pound of Tagliatelle (or Fettuccine) pasta
Four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
One-half onion, one shallot and two cloves garlic chopped
Three teaspoons of capers
One cup of chicken stock
One-half cup of dry white wine
One dozen sun-dried or sliced, fresh cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Two cups of good parmesan (such as Parmigiano Reggiano)
Two tablespoons each chopped Italian parsley and scallions (green parts)
One teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
One cup of pasta water- reserved.

Grate two cups of parmesan
Sauté onions, garlic and shallots in olive oil in large pan
Add sun-dried or cherry tomatoes and capers to sauté pan
Add chicken stock and white wine and cook for about five minutes
Cook for ten minutes until liquid is reduced
Turn heat down to simmer and add salt and pepper to taste
Add tagliatelle to boiling water and cook until al dente
Drain pasta reserving one-half cup pasta water
Add pasta and water plus one cup of cheese to pan
Sprinkle parsley and scallions to the pan
Toss the mixture until it’s well integrated and then plate it

Place extra cheese and red pepper flakes in bowls for use at the table

The two wines I’m recommending you pair with Vino e Pasta come from regions at either ends of Italy, but both are harmonious accompaniments to the dish.

2020 Tiefenbrunner Pino Grigio ($21) – This crisp white from Trentino-Alto Adige in the extreme northern part of Italy (almost in Austria) is full of citrus and ripe green apple flavors. It is also a refreshing and complementary counterpoint to the richness of the pasta dish.

2021 Di Majo Norante Falanghina ($15) From the hills above Naples in southern Italy, this medium-bodied white has flavors of melon with nuances of peach and tropical fruit. It is complex and well-balanced, and pairs seamlessly with the Pasta e Vino.

John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book, Augie’s World, is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. Both novels are available in print and audio at Amazon. You can find out more about his novels and wine columns at

Keep peeling that onion!
Time to celebrate: The Judgement of Paris