My brother has been traveling Italy with his friend Joe for … like a month.

Left me here in the mega hot Austin summer; but I’m not bitter … much anyway.

I turned to Lidia Bastianich to bust me out of my “I didn’t get to drink wine in the foothills of the Apennines” funk and she came through marvelously with this great shellfish pasta dish from Abruzzo. Really very few ingredients, not much in the way of prep and oh so good. (Remember all the Dining with the Rat Pack recipes can be found in an Evernote share folder here.)

Some Arbuzzese fisherman must have wandered by Marseille and picked up on the notion of a seafood-saffron combination … or maybe the idea flowed the other way. Regardless, the garlic, saffron and tomato base for this dish is amazing … simple yet elegant flavors.

And after the shellfish drop their liquor into the mix and spend some quality spa time soaking in it, the brodetto that it becomes goes to a whole new level of awesome. The typical red pepper edge of Abruzzese cooking is present in this recipe, but at just the right level to remind you where this dish originates without hammering the seafood.

The semi-spicey brodetto calls out for a nice medium body red wine — a Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo would be perfect. I got the big “Fail” from my wife when I miscalculated our wine stores and came up nello on Italian reds. OK, she didn’t really smack me around … it was more of a self-inflicted “Fail” that I recovered from — somewhat — with a nice Argentinian Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda blend from La Posta. Actually it was really nice up against the edgy seafood pasta, but I can’t wait to make this dish again with a nice Montepulciano in tow.

The Music…

I’ve been running hard with the Rat Pack of late, researching and tooling Sinatra-Basie and Dean Martin related reviews. Last night we decided to tilt toward the next generation of vocal standards performers with my Young Pack Sonos playlist — about 300 songs anchored by Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Rene Olstead, Peter Cincotti, Steve Tyrell and the their contemporaries.

After weeks living large with Frank and the classic players, it was cool to deep dive into the New Guard and get reacquainted with the next generation’s interpretation of the American Songbook. Get’s me all a flutter about our upcoming events schedule with Steve Tyrell in October and Bobby Caldwell in January.

The Evening Progression…

The prep is done ... let the games begin!


Cook without a glass of wine in my hand? Not gonna happen!

All in! ... The shellfish settle in and await the rigatoni ...

Don't forget bread ... oh, so important to soak up that brodetto.

The truly committed ... they gave their all ... and tasted so good!