Food and Wine Pairing: Italian Red from Umbria with Savoy Cabbage Wrapped Meatballs

Meatball wine pairing recipeEvery fall, there comes a time when you feel you have to reacquaint yourself with your oven. Stewpots, roasting pans and oven trays are dug up from forgotten cupboards, and the warming red wines of fall are cheerfully pulled back into everyday meals and paired with new seasonal recipes.

One type of red that seems ideal for this early-winter feeling? Montefalco Rosso. Though this fierce and delightful wine is a good meal pairing for all courses, it shines especially when coupled with roasted and grilled meats. At Il Gattopardo in New York, Chef Vito Gnazzo likes pairing a big glass of Montefalco Rosso with his sensational beef & veal meatballs – please find his recipe below. The ultra-tender meatballs are wrapped in an almost translucent Savoy-cabbage leaf, which seals in juiciness and imparts a delicate flavor to the dish. With its bright red fruits, hint of spice, and invigorating acidity, Montefalco Rosso acts as the perfect complement to the fattiness of the meat.

Grown atop the hills of Montefalco, a small village in central Italy’s Umbria region, Montefalco Rosso is championed as the everyday wine of the Umbrian people. This friendly blend results from a balanced combination of Sangiovese (60-70%) and the indigenous Sagrantino grape (10-15%), along with other locally-grown grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Because this wine is a blend, incorporating Merlot as a varietal, is a softer version of some of the big, bold Italian red wines on the market. It works quite well with this dish, as the veal, milk soaked breadcrumbs, and cheese create a melt-in-your-mouth effect on the palate. The cabbage provides a slightly bitter note, playing off the acidity and minerality present in the wine.

Meatballs wrapped in cabbage leaves

Chef Vito Gnazzo, Executive Chef at Il Gattopardo and The Leopard at Des Artistes

INGREDIENTS – Serving 4 people (3 meatballs per person)

  • 18 oz. ground beef
  • 6 oz grounded veal
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz bread crumbs soaked in milk
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1 oz Parmigiano grated
  • 1 oz pecorino Romano grated
  • 12 leaves of blanched Savoy cabbage


  • 1 oz. of white wine
  • 2 oz. of veal stock
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 2 oz of olive oil


Chop the onions, garlic, and parsley very fine. Put the meat in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. With your hands, make little patties, blanch the cabbage leaves and wrap the meat balls with the cabbage leaf. Fry them in hot olive oil for one minute each side and put them in the oven for about 5 minutes (at 375 F). Eliminate the oil, add the white wine, veal stock, thyme and the olive oil. Cook for another minute. Add salt and pepper at your taste.

Best served with baby greens, lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.

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