Monday, February 15, 2010

napa valley spotlight + basil parmesan chicken and pasta

To celebrate Valentine's weekend, my husband took me to Napa Valley.  We love Napa Valley.  We love the architecture...the vineyards...the cute towns.  Napa Valley is one of our favorite places to go on a day trip.  The funny thing is...we don't really love wine!

Don't get me wrong...we like wine.  We buy wine on occasion and we'll even share a glass of it once every couple of months.  But we are definitely not winos.  We know nothing about pairing food with wine, and we only swirl and sniff in order to make each other laugh.  We never drink red wine (apparently, if you are truly a wine lover, you like it red).  We like it fruity, sweet, and generally drink it out of an Eskimo Joe's cup.

But we love Napa.  And since I cook with wine, I thought I would showcase both the winery we visited as well as one of my wine-infused recipes.  This will be a longer post, but hang in there...I've got some great pictures for you and a recipe you've got to try.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa is a relatively new winery to Napa Valley, but it's already made a name for itself.  Why?  Well, take a look.

That's right...that's a winery.  It's recently received fame for being featured on the Bachelor (or so my sister tells me) as well as Disney's Bedtime Stories.  I haven't seen it in either of those productions...but I did get to tour it!

You can't see the castle from the main road.  And when you pull into the drive, you have to drive almost to the top of the hill before you can see it.  When we arrived this weekend, the castle was shrouded in fog.  It was beautiful!

The castle is amazing.  The grounds are huge, complete with vineyards, a pond, jousting grounds, and even servants' quarters!

It's also got a moat...

...and a cat guarding the entrance.

Doesn't my husband look absolutely grand sitting atop his castle?

We took a guided tour of this winery that lasted almost two hours.  We got to see the beautiful grand hall - it has hand painted murals covering the walls and a fireplace that predates Christopher Columbus.

We also got to go into the underground caves that house all of the wine barrels (and a torture chamber!).  In this particular room, we participated in a barrel tasting...

And finally, our tour group was ushered into a beautiful room for a private tasting.

We tried a white, a rose, and all of the dessert wines. 

Man...they were amazing...

...even for non-winos like us.

(I also enjoyed the complimentary bread sticks...)

We had a ton of fun and even found some new wines that we liked.  Our favorites? - all the dessert wines. :-)  My favorite was the La Fantasia - it was a sparkling red wine (!) that tasted wonderfully of cherries.  My man's favorite was the Il Raggio del Sole, a muscat wine.  I think we're going to have to go back and buy some.

And now for the food...

What better to make when you get home from a winery than a meal that involves wine?  I admit, though...we did not use any wine from Castello di Amorosa in making this meal.  In fact, we didn't use Napa wine at all.  I tend to not cook with fancy wines...I'd rather drink those.  Instead, we buy relatively cheap ($5-7) wines for cooking.  Please note, though, that we never use cooking wines for cooking.  They are disgusting and overpriced!  Why cook with something that you wouldn't drink?

This is a pasta dish I created that my husband loves.  And, because it's fast and easy, it's often a dish we make for company as well.  It calls for the following ingredients: chicken breasts, frozen broccoli, minced garlic, basil-Parmesan pesto, dry white wine, lemon juice, dried basil, salt, and tortellini.  (If you are dairy free, just pick another type of pasta and use plain olive oil instead of the pesto.)

First, get some water boiling for your tortellini.  You'll want to cook about 2 1/2 cups of tortellini according to the instructions on the package.  When you toss the tortellini in the boiling water, also throw in a 14 oz package of frozen broccoli florets. 

While your pasta and broccoli are boiling, cook one teaspoon of minced garlic and 3-4 chicken breasts (cut into pieces) in a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  The chicken doesn't need to be completely done at this point - just cook and stir for about two minutes to let the sides get browned.

Once the outside of the chicken is browned, add the following to your skillet: 1/2 cup basil-Parmesan pesto, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 4 tablespoons white wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons dried basil.  If you are doing the dairy free version, use a few tablespoons of olive oil in place of the pesto and add extra basil and garlic for flavoring.  Stir around to combine and then reduce heat and cover.  Let all of this wonderfulness simmer until the chicken is cooked inside (about 6-8 minutes).

Drain your cooked broccoli and pasta, and add these to the cooked chicken mixture.

That's it!  Serve with a salad or bread sticks on the side.  Oh...and don't forget the glass of wine!

Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta
3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 cup basil-Parmesan pesto
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. water
4 T. white wine
1 T. plus 2 t. basil
2 1/2 cups tortellini
14 oz. broccoli florets

Cook pasta and broccoli together, according to directions on package of pasta. Drain.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray with cooking spray and cook chicken and garlic for about 2 minutes, or until browned on sides.  Then, pour remaining ingredients in skillet, stirring to mix.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 6-8 minutes or until chicken is done.  To serve, combine pasta, broccoli, and chicken mixture.  Serves 6.

Nutrition: 364 cal, 13g fat, 4g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 87mg cholesterol, 489mg sodium, 23g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 33g protein, 3% vit. A, 5% vit. C, 10% calcium, 10% iron.


  1. Photos are beautiful, although I shall not comment on the castle - I only hope that it is from genuine stone. But I am sure that the wine was excellent - Napa Valley is famous for it. Also, I love and shall make chicken with tortellini and broccoli. Yummi (for my family, I never eat anything with feathers).

  2. What a gorgeous place to visit, and your dinner looks fantastic, too!

  3. Having grown up in California, I LOVE Napa. Your pictures are gorgeous! I love visiting wineries...we have some here in Nebraska and I go often. One of our local, independent grocery stores has a Friday tasting of the locally grown wines and that is great fun and gives us ideas of where we want to visit.

    Your pasta dish looks devine. I'll be trying that soon :)


  4. What a beautiful place! I have to admit... I saw that episode of the Bachelor ;) Looks like you had a wonderfu time.
    And the pasta dish looks very tasty!

  5. This sounds delicious...but, then again, if you put pesto on it, I will eat it. :-)

    The Napa pics are gorgeous. Would love to steal away for a long weekend, too. Lucky girl. Hope you enjoyed.

    Thanks for sharing the photos and recipe.


  6. GREAT!!! pasta recipe. I love all your photos, THANKS!!! for sharing.
    I have become a follower of your blog, I love to share recipes and ideas. Come by and visit maybe you can do the same.

  7. I love that you put the nutritional information on there. I make a dish something like this for my family and they love it.

  8. I love the pictures and would love to go. But it is a long way from Oklahoma.

  9. I nominated you for a blogging award! Be sure to check it out and pass it along!

  10. that recipe looks delicious -- thanks for sharing. I see you are a grad student -- what are you studying?


Related Posts with Thumbnails