While real Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, other wines, such as Italian Prosecco or American champagnes, have the same bubbly, crisp and light taste as the French export, and you can use them all interchangeably. Champagne and Prosecco don't pair well with overly acidic tomato-based Italian dishes because the acidity overpowers sparkling wine's more moderate profile. But the wines do work with a variety of other traditional Italian dishes.
Champagne and Prosecco work well with the salty foods that appear on an Italian antipasto, or appetizer, tray. The word itself is Italian for "before the meal," and typically includes Italian cured meats like prosciutto, as well as olives, smoked fish, Parmesan cheese and puff pastry cheese straws. The slight sweetness in either very dry or less dry champagnes offsets and balances the saltiness in the antipasto foods.
Creamy pasta sauces or risotto dishes that appear as the first course in many Italian meals taste even better when you pair them with champagne because the sparkling wine balances and cuts through the the richness of the sauces. With spaghetti carbonara, for example, the cream, the salty cheese and the bacon or pancetta don't seem so heavy with a dry champagne that has hints of fruitiness.
Champagne works well with Italian meat and seafood entrees, called secondi, as long as they are not cooked in a heavy, tomato sauce. Michael Bonadies, author of "Sip by Sip," recommends Prosecco with grilled squid skewers. Because lemon works well with champagne's light and fruity flavors, try a roasted whole chicken stuffed with lemons and fresh herbs in the cavity, or chicken pieces marinated in rosemary, lemon and garlic.
Serve fresh fruit for dessert as Italians do and you can serve champagne alongside it. Champagne's hints of sweetness and fruitiness complement just about any fruit, but especially strawberries, melon and orange. Incorporate fruit into other desserts too, such as a ricotta cheesecake or panna cotta flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest, or a raspberry crostata or tart.
While most dishes with tomato sauce are too acidic for champagne, ones with roasted tomatoes have a sweetness that doesn't overpower the wine as much. Roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in tomatoes and removes their more pungent qualities. If you add roasted tomatoes and sweet, caramelized onions and garlic to your pizza, you can still enjoy a glass of sparkling wine with it.
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Food and Wine: Ciao, Champagne
- Food and Wine: 15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairings 15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairings
- Food and Wine: Wine 101: Champagne & Sparkling Wines
- Saveur: Lemon and Rosemary Chicken (Pollo Arrosto)
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Bon Appetit: Italian Desserts Slideshow
- Bon Appetit: A Pizza and Prosecco Party
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