Wine Pairings for Orecchiette con Cavolfiore
This kind of pasta gives pause when pondering wine pairings. There’s plenty of neutrality between the pasta and the cauliflower, which combined visually comprise the main elements. However, flavors surge from the other components. Still, it’s not easy to tell which predominate simply from reading the ingredient list. For instance, the anchovies act as a salty and savory component here but don’t donate a “fishy” flavor. It’s important, too, to note the textural character of this dish to properly pair a wine. The mild, al dente character of the cauliflower and the crunchy breadcrumbs add dimension on the palate. In order for the subtlety of flavors and the palate feel of this wine to surface ahead of the wine, an unoaked (new oak, that is), vinous and refreshing wine will be key. Many dishes from southern Italy, like this one, don’t require meat. So, southern Italian wines call out, and in particular, Campanian wines.
In the last decade, Campanian wines – especially white wines – have surged up the quality scale. Falanghina is a great grape to pair with this dish thanks to its notes of herbs and hay that combine nicely with the cauliflower. Moreover, Falanghina has plenty of acidity to give this dish relief from its appealing textural density and anchovy-driven saltiness.
In Campania, the fiercely structured Aglianico rules. It’s runner up is Piedirosso, a variety that too often sits on the bench or is blended away. A few conscientious producers are now reviving the uniqueness of this grape in varietal wines. When well-ripened, Piedirosso shows bright red strawberry and dried red cranberry notes that combine with underbrush and dried lavender, creating a contrasting and refreshing combo with this Sunday Pasta that works beautifully.
Check out our recipe for Orecchiette con Cavolfiore.
Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine (MW)