Wine pairings for Rigatoni alla Norma
Apparently eggplant is the American broccoli equivalent to parent-child tableside frustration. Happily, eggplant is much easier to adapt to wine.
The flavors of this dish are pretty forceful. They know what they have to say and they will. Very Sicilian. So the question arises, does the Sicilian personality develop from the grandmothers or the food? Perhaps it’s the grandmothers that lovingly (or determinedly) blend family and table to create the two.
Whatever bitterness of the eggplant that is not drained out of the vegetable as well as the tomato sauce make this a red wine dish for my palate. I’ve written previously about Nero d’Avola and Cerasuolo so it’s time for a divergence.
There are two spots in Sicily – to which I’ve never been and long to go – whose wines I adore. One is the volcanic mountain of Etna and the other the district called “Lighthouse”, or Faro, in Italian. I like them each for many reasons but each grow a grape called Nerello Mascalese that really ignites my taste buds. In both denominazione, Nerello tends to be a majority partner to a blend. Nerello adds a spice component that contributes to the complexity of this blend and has enough tannin to counter the eggplant’s hard-to-beat characteristics. A few favorites include the non-plus-ultra Palari Faro and its younger sibling Rosso del Soprano as well as the Di Giovanna Nerello Mascalese.
If these slightly less-main stream wines aren’t in your vicinity, check for the wines you already know from Sicily (Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Cerasuolo). Then ask for black fruit wines like Aglianico from the south. Your perfect pairing is near at hand!
Christy Canterbury, Wine Editor