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Spaghetti squash, ragu with cabernet

A well-aged cabernet sauvignon is one of most wine drinkers' greatest pleasures, and our two Wines of the Week -- Shafer 2003 Napa Valley Stag's Leap District Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon and Sbragia Family Vineyards 2003 Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon -- will not disappoint. They both have that combination of maturity and complexity that is so engaging.

Shafer cabernet is consistently outstanding year after year. If you love huge cabernets, this is a wine for you. It is massive, with an explosion of dark fruit punctuated by flourishes of milk chocolate, cedar, star anise, black pepper, with a burst of something refreshingly mint-like mid-palate. Earthy qualities suggest cool topsoil and, just maybe, a hint of truffle. Tannins are smoothing out but are still substantial enough that the wine can easily age for several more years. The very best pairing is a dry-aged ribeye steak with a rich potato-sweet-potato puree.

The Sbragia cabernet, from the widely acclaimed Monte Rosso Vineyard, still has remarkably bright aromas, with juicy black fruit -- especially dark berries -- and subtle notes of sweet spice, toast and cocoa. The wine is supple, tannins are resolving and the finish is long and pleasing. The wine will be excellent with prime rib, leg of lamb, grilled halibut, eggplant and almost any other dish that is compatible with a big red wine.

For today's recipe, I suggest the concentrated flavors of spaghetti squash combined with a slow-cooked ragu. You must plan ahead for this dish, as the ragu needs several hours of slow cooking. If you're in a hurry but like the idea of spaghetti squash, simply roast it, remove it from its shell and toss it with olive oil, a bit of butter, some chopped Italian parsley and minced garlic and plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. It won't be as rich and complex as with the lamb ragu but it will make a delicious match.

Spaghetti Squash with Lamb Ragu

Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, minced

3 small carrots, peeled and minced (about 1 cup)


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