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Rico Cassoni
Rico Cassoni, Taste of Wine and Food Tech Director/Writer and Instant Pot Chef. Photo by Frank Mangio
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Taste of Wine: Rigatoni bolognese alla Instant Pot

The popularity of Instant Pots continued through 2020 especially with all of us being cooped up and restaurants closed and reduced to takeout due to the pandemic.  In fact, Instant Pots were one of the most popular Christmas gifts for 2019 and perhaps the same for 2020.

Being a foodie, I couldn’t resist getting in on the Instant Pot action, albeit late just getting my Instant Pot Duo Crisp in November this year as part of a holiday sale.  Its popularity is due to tons of great-tasting quick recipes available online and easy one-pot cleanup.

Knowing Senior Editor Frank’s love for rigatoni bolognese and Brunellos, I knew making rigatoni along with Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert at his house with a great bottle of 2015 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino would be the perfect Christmas gift.

For our good friends like Orfila’s Exec Chef Luke Morganstern and Il Fornaio Del Mar General Manager Vittorio and Exec Chef Jean Lucca, you might want to have one eye shut reading the rest of the column.

I would be remiss if I did not provide the adapted bolognese recipe based on Pressure Luck’s Jeffrey Eisner Instant Pot recipe with a few Rico changes.

  1. Saute 1 onion, 2 to 3 ribs of celery, and 1 large carrot (a mirepoix) in ¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) for 5 to 7 minutes (min) and then add 3 to 5 minced cloves of garlic for 1 min to prevent burning.
  2. Next, add 1.5lbs of meat – can be a mixture of beef, turkey, pork and/or veal and brown (not completely cook).  Then add ¾ cup red wine and ¼ cup white wine and cook for 10+ minutes to burn off the alcohol.
  3. Add 2 cups beef or chicken broth, one 28oz can crushed tomatoes (use San Marzanos if possible), 1 can tomato paste, and the following spices: 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp Italian Seasoning, and stir.  Then add 16 oz rigatoni noodles (Barilla if possible).
  4. Press the noodles in to cover with liquid, but make sure to keep on top and not press too deep to prevent the burn food warning.
  5. Pressure cook on high for 8 min (note it will take 10 min or so to come to pressure).  After cooking, do a quick release to prevent overcooking.  Don’t be afraid of how it looks.
  6. Stir and if desired, add ½ cup of cream for a bechamel flavor.  If you really want to be decadent, add ½ to a whole Boursin Cheese “puck” in sections and stir in.  Open a bottle of vino and savor!

This delicious dinner would not have been complete without a rich dessert like Instant Pot Chocolate Lava Cake topped with Vanilla Ice Cream.  I recommend swapping out your Instant Pot seal with a dedicated “dessert” seal to prevent Bolognese flavors from leeching into the lava cake.

This recipe was adapted from  You will be amazed at how easy, simple, and great tasting this recipe is.

  1. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips (dark if possible) and 1 stick of butter in a microwave for 30 sec, stir, and then for another 30 sec, stir until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk 3 eggs, 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, and 1 tsp vanilla.
  3. Next, pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Grease four ramekins with butter or cooking spray.  Fill each ramekin 2/3 full.
  5. Put a trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot along with 2 cups of water.  Put three ramekins on the bottom and the fourth on top of the three.  Pressure Cook for 8 min and quick release.
  6. Use a paper towel to soak up any water on the edges, top with ice cream, and perhaps serve with port wine.  Bon Appetit!

Of course, we could not have been making this feast without another exceptional wine during the preparation.  DAOU Family Estates Bodyguard was a perfect choice.

I remember meeting with Daniel Daou, Proprietor and Lead Winemaker, at DAOU Mountain in June 2019 and him referring to Bodyguard as “approachable luxury”; I could not agree more.

Bodyguard is a Petit Verdot (59%) and Petite Sirah (41%) blend.  It has fruit on the nose with blackberry and raspberry and a hint of currant, some jamminess on the palate with cherry, cranberry, and strawberry, and a silky smooth finish with polished tannins.  It is an excellent value wine at the $50 price point!  Details at

The Rigatoni Bolognese was served with the Talenti Brunello.  Despite its young age for a Brunello, it proved to be an excellent pairing for the Bolognese; in fact, it was one of my Top 5 for our 2020 Top 10s.  The Talenti had rose and orange zest on the nose, black cherry and currant on the palate, and an earthy smooth finish.  Details at

Story by Tech Director/Writer (and Instant Pot Chef) Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Sigh the pandemic.  West End Bar & Kitchen has rescheduled their Royal Night Wine Dinners to:  Thurs. Feb. 25 to Sat. Feb. 27 at 6pm featuring Schramsberg Vineyards and Davies Vineyards.  Schramsberg Vineyards focus on producing the finest and most complex handcrafted Chardonnay sparkling wines in California.  West End has carefully chosen their favorite selections and uniquely paired them to complement their flavors.  Call now 858-259-5878 to reserve your place.  Cost is $95. per person plus tax and gratuity.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  Reach him at [email protected].