Tame the heat of this pasta dish with the deep, dark fruits of a Sicilian red blend or introduce some spice of your own with a zinfandel or red Rhone blend, both from California. Heat, spice and reds don't always play nicely together, which can be a problem. With these three wines, problem solved.
PENNE WITH GARBANZO BEANS, ARUGULA AND SPICY TOMATOES
Put 1/4 cup olive oil, half of a 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste into a blender. Process until smooth. In a bowl, mix 1 can (15 ounces) of garbanzo beans, drained; 4 large plum tomatoes, diced; 1/2 large seedless cucumber, diced; 1/3 cup finely diced red onion. Toss with vinaigrette. Cook 12 ounces of whole wheat penne in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente; drain. Toss pasta with bean mixture. Stir in 3/4 cup shredded Italian cheese, 2 cups baby arugula leaves and 1/2 cup finely sliced basil. Makes: 6 servings
Recipe by JeanMarie Brownson.
Pairings by sommelier Nate Redner of Oyster Bah, as told to Michael Austin:
2015 Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso, Sicily, Italy: A blend of frappato and nero d'Avola, this wine's deep plum, prune and blackberry flavors will help tackle the heat in the dish, and its fine tannin structure will keep the pairing from being bitter. For tighter tannin, just chill the wine a touch before serving.
2011 Joseph Swan Vineyards Mancini Ranch Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California: This wine's low alcohol-high acidity profile is food-friendly, even with a tough dish to pair. The wine's dried red fruit character will cut the acidity and heat of the tomato and red pepper, and its peppery notes will match the arugula.
2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant, Central Coast, California: Again, this wine's dark fruit concentration will keep the dish's heat and acidity in check. The blend is made mostly of mourvedre and grenache, but the touch of syrah also contributes a peppery and meaty touch.