On a perfect October evening, 50 lucky sweepstakes-winning Mollie Stone’s customers were whisked away to Artesa Vineyards & Winery for an Evening with Nick Stellino put together by DaVinci Pasta.
Italian-born Nick Stellino left his career as a stockbroker to pursue a culinary career. He found success as a television chef and has published a number of cookbooks full of delicious Italian recipes since the 1990s.
Mollie Stone’s customers were greeted with a glass of Artesa Chardonnay and given some time to mingle at the lovely venue before taking a seat for Nick’s cooking demo and a 3 course pasta dinner.
The room was set up like a classroom so that everyone had a view of Nick’s cooking lesson. The room began to smell delicious as he added olive oil and garlic to his pan, and he shared a number of cooking tips, tricks and stories as he cooked each of the dishes we enjoyed that evening.
Nick’s first dish was DaVinci Thin Spaghetti Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Shrimp, paired with Artesa 2010 Chardonnay (recipe here). He recommends cooking a pound of pasta in salted water until it’s 3/4 done, then shocking it with cold water to stop the cooking and adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the cold pasta. At this point, refrigerate it for later use (time-saving tip for weeknights!) or add it to a pan of sauce to absorb the flavors of your sauce as it finishes cooking. Nick commented that they key to a successful pasta dish is to let the pasta and the sauce “have a date and fall in love with each other.”
Our second dish was DaVinci Penne Rigate Pasta with Ham, Mushrooms, Asparagus & Truffle Oil, served with Artesa 2009 Pinot Noir (Nick’s favorite varietal from Artesa). The salty ham enhances the mushroom flavor, and adding just a splash of cream adds flavor and texture without “stealing the show.” If the cream in your sauce breaks, Nick suggested adding 2 tablespoons of starchy pasta water. He also reminded us to add salt last when you’re cooking; if you do find yourself with a dish that’s too salty, Nick advised that adding more cream or cheese will help.
Even after two plates of pasta, we all enjoyed the third course: DaVinci Rotini Pasta with Pine Nuts, Raisins & Tomatoes, complemented by Artesa 2007 Elements Red Blend. Growing up, meat was a luxury for Nick’s family. This dish proves you can create tons of flavor by simply infusing olive oil with less expensive ingredients – red pepper flakes, garlic, basil, mint, lemon zest. Breadcrumbs absorb this flavorful sauce, and raisins plumped in hot water add sweetness. Get Nick’s must-try recipe.
As Mollie Stone’s customers enjoyed pasta and sipped wine, Nick kept everyone laughing as he told us why he got rid of his ponytail and how much he loves his cat, even after it ruined his new cashmere suit. On the way out, Nick signed our new copies of Nick Stellino Cooking with Friends. Mollie Stone’s customers took home plenty of tasty recipes and great memories!