The Wine Whisperer: By Lorn Razzano

This is the time of year when all of the wonderful garden veggies explode with color and wonderful aromas and lend cuisine its radiance and lovely, savory flavors.

Tess and I just picked the last of our peppers, tomatoes and strawberries and are thinking of pulling up the old plants, tilling and cleaning up the long growing year to wait for the spring garden fun. I thought that I would give you a few simple but superb wine and cuisine pairings this week for all of this garden bonanza. Here we go.

Tomatoes: I could spend an entire article on what to do with tomatoes of every variety. We are at the end of the season and I am sure many of you have tomatoes somewhere around the house just aching to be tossed into a salad (used fresh) or heated and stewed for that cool autumn evening.

I am going to give you my grandmother's meat and tomato sauce recipe so that you might find a bit of northern Italy in your kitchen. These meat sauces are made for tomato bases with long simmerings that fill the kitchens of northern Italy with such marvelous aromas.

My family, on both sides, are from the Piemonte region of the boot, which is the northwestern part, kissing the Alps as the Italian border with France and Switzerland merge. This is the region of the autumnal harvests and is the best time to visit; between late September and very early November. Piemonte is also the home of the white and black truffle and the Porcini mushroom, all of which make the region a gastronomic wonderland.

The wines, happy in hot growing seasons, foggy afternoons and crisp nights, are redolent with spice, long and broodingly rich aftertastes and delightful bouquets, to say nothing of the round and purple grip that seems to embrace the palate at every sip.

Piemonte is also the home of Arborio rice and cornmeal called polenta. This cornmeal is not course but refined and swells with heat and liquid much as we see with risotto. Piemontese sauces are always, for the lack of a better term, firm and not runny in any manner. The meat sauces are used to hug in shelled pasta or rigatoni and are also used to stick to risotto and polenta.

Unlike our southern cousins, we are not, as a rule, wheat folks, but stick with corn and rice as staples. We do, however, love southern Italian pomodori (tomatoes) and citrus hugged by the sun of the Mezzogiorno. Okay, here's Nonna's time-honored recipe (for four persons) for fresh tomato in meat sauce:

4 large, chopped, ripe tomatoes

three cloves of garlic

black pepper and salt

11/2 pounds of very lean ground red meat (no lamb)

a teaspoon of rosemary

1/4 bottle of dry white wine (over 12 percent alcohol)

1/4 bottle of 1 percent milk

1 medium-sized carrot, chopped

In a large, deep saucepan toss in 1/4 cube of butter. Let the butter simmer but not brown, add finely chopped garlic, carrots, black pepper and salt (to taste) and cook on high until garlic is translucent but not browned. When this is done toss in the meat and cook high until browned. (You can used browned tofu if you wish but, of course, this is not traditional in Italian cuisine.) When browned, pour in the white wine (still high heat) until evaporated, or nearly so. When this is done do the same with the milk and let it curdle and assimilate. Add the finely chopped tomatoes and stir. Keep the lid on with low heat for three hours. Serve over polenta, risotto or pastas of any type.

Serve this Sugo con Carne al Piemonte with the traditional wines of the Piemonte: Barbera, Dolcetto, Barolo or Barbaresco and have a load of fun. You can also freeze what you do not eat, which comes in handy if time is a constraint.

Well, there you have it! Give Nonna's sauce a try, you will love it! See you next week!