Molise is a small region of central eastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy, about 90% hills and mountains. Some say that the interior is still full of bears and wolves, but we have no such recipes, much less wine pairings. So you’ll have to make do with vegetables, lamb, and a surprise recipe, presented next.

Have you ever eaten cardoons? Do you even know what they are? Cardoons are thistles related to artichokes, native to the Mediterranean but that are sometimes found in American farmer’s markets. Zuppa di Cardoni (Cardoon Soup) is made with chopped cardoons, veal, chicken livers, white wine, grated Parmesan cheese, chicken broth, and some other ingredients. Be careful when handling these thistles. Suggested wine pairings include Dolcetto d’Acqui DOC and Bardolino DOC from Veneto. I don’t think I would pay extra for the Bardolino Superiore DOCG to accompany thistle soup.

The vegetables here can be excellent. Enjoy Timballo di Melanzane (Aubergine Timbale) made from eggplants, butter, flour, oil, cured ham, and cheese. The authentic version includes a local smoked cow’s milk cheese. This recipe is rather simple to make but plan ahead; you really must salt the eggplant to drain them of their bitter juices. The suggested wine pairing is a Dolcetto DOC, which comes from the Piedmont. Dolcetto di Ovada DOC is said to be the best. You might save some money and still do well with a Dolcetto-based wine without the DOC designation.

Peperoni Imbottiti (Stuffed Sweet Peppers) can be served as a vegetable or as a light main dish. The stuffing includes sauteed peppers, breadcrumbs, grated Pecorino cheese, an egg, garlic, and several spices. Accompany this dish with a Dolcetto as described above or a Chianti Classico DOCG from Tuscany.

Molise is known for spicy food. Try a dish that is mouth watering in more ways than one. Agnello all’Arrabbiata (Lamb Stew Arrabbiata Style) is made with sauteed morsels of spring lamb, accompanied by garlic, rosemary, white wine, and chili peppers. If you want the real thing don’t stint on the final ingredient. Pair this dish with Aglianico del Vulture DOC from Basilicata.

Agnello alla Pecorara (Lamb shepherdess’s style) is spring lamb that cooks in its own fat, served on toast. Suggested wine pairings for this simple but satisfying dish is Brunello di Montalcino DOCG from Tuscany, Barolo DOCG from Piedmont, or an Italian Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Molise is a small region of central eastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy, about 90% hills and mountains. Some say that the interior is still full of bears and wolves, but we have no such recipes, much less wine...