The “sheep poop theory”: Cesanese del Piglio and cacio e pepe

When it comes to food and wine pairing, one of my favorite motti is owed to New York restaurant legend Danny Meyer: if it grows with it, it goes with it…

It’s what I call the “sheep poop theory”: you want to pair the wine with the cheese made by the sheep that poop in the field next to the vineyard where the wine is raised. Now, that’s what I call terroir!

The other night, when some friends brought an excellent bottle of 2006 Terenzi Cesanese del Piglio from Latium to our favorite BYOB joint in Austin (the name of which I cannot reveal lest it cease to be our best-kept secret), we asked the chef to whip up one of the simplest and most delicious dishes in the world, classic Roman cacio e pepe, long noodles tossed with Pecorino Romano and freshly cracked pepper.

So little Cesanese makes it to the U.S. these days and sadly, none — save for that which is smuggled in — makes it to Texas.

With its classic black pepper notes, it’s as if this wine were created expressly to pair with cacio e pepe. I thought the wine showed brilliantly: red fruit on the nose and in the mouth, zinging acidity (despite its age), and pepper, pepper, pepper combined with a gently chewy mouthfeel… Delicious…

Does anyone know of a Cesanese available here? It’s such a great summer red and I drink it any chance I get!

What’s your favorite Cesanese?

Recipe for Picchiapò (we all loved each other so much)

My depressing post yesterday made think of the Roman dish Picchiapò and the great scene from the 74 Scola film C’eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much) when the three main characters (an intellectual bourgeois, a rich bourgeois, and a proletarian) realize that they have lost touch with the ideals they fought for together as partisans during the Second World War. Italian leading man Vittorio Gassman fantasizes his own death and utters the famous line, our generation really stinks!

The clip is in Italian but you don’t need to understand Italian to watch it. Picchiapò plays an important role: it’s one of the great Roman “recycled” dishes, a dish born from necessity but a delicacy because of its very nature.

I should leave the recipe writing to Simona and her excellent blog Briciole but feeling inspired this morning after Tracie B’s brioche French toast, I went online and found and translated this recipe.



l lb. leftover boiled veal or beef, cut into small pieces
2-3 onions
2 cups tomato purée
rosemary (basil is sometimes used and cinnamon can be used as well)
salt and pepper
2 cups white or red wine
extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Slice the onions into rounds and then wilt with a drizzle of the olive oil in a pan. When they have lightly browned, deglaze with the wine.

Add the tomato purée and spices and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Add the meet and let it absorb the flavor of the sauce.

Serve hot with potato purée or boiled potatoes or seasonal vegetables.

The Scola classic film is a commedia all’italiana but it is also a stinging social commentary and a moving film about love and country. It is also a meta-film — a film about film — and includes a cameo by Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini and a number of timeless Italian film clips. I highly recommend it.