Wine & Food Killers: Burrata and Mortadella Sandwiches with Pistachio Pesto and Podere Pradarolo Indocilis Rosso 2020

Some of the very best things are simple. Sun on a winter morning after weeks of rain. A well-made cup of coffee, served at exactly the right temperature. Dinner with good friends. And a glass of well-made sparkling red wine, with all the richness of its hue and all the levity of high carbonation.

Podere Pradarolo’s Indocilis Rosso is just such a wine. Hailing from near Parma in Emilia Romagna, this vino rosso frizzante looks almost like a kriek when it’s poured, glugging into the glass with a big souffle of pink foam before eventually settling down into hissing merriment. It is made from 100% Barbera grapes, true to winemakers Claudia and Alberto Carretti’s insistence on simplicity: They use only organic grapes, ferment with indigenous yeasts, avoid sulphur and their wines undergo long periods of maceration without disruption.

Some might describe a wine like this as “juice”, and it’s true that it tastes like late-summer blackberries and currants, so ripe they almost burst at a glance – but underlying that immediate impression is smoke and earth, something twining and savoury like thorny brambles. It is a simple pleasure, a wine whose crown cap can be eased off for any casual lunch, but there’s surprise and substance here, enough to make you stop mid-gulp and really consider what’s in your glass.

I like to think this sandwich has a similar sensibility. When I saw a recent Instagram post from Quality Wines’ chef Nick Bramham about a mortadella and burrata sandwich he was eating in Bologna, I knew I had to make my own version. In the photo, the sandwich is bursting at the seams, the burrata a visual double for vanilla gelato, melting into the bread and mingling with pistachio pesto while the mortadella escapes beyond the sandwich’s perimeter. It is nothing complicated and yet, as Bramham writes, it is extraordinary.

I love sandwiches like this, which make the most of a few special ingredients and which chafe at containment. Following Bramham’s example, to go with the pistachio-studded mortadella, I made a pistachio-heavy pesto that’s thick enough to scoop, then added rocket for its peppery crunch and caper berries for their bite. The resulting sandwich, served on airy focaccia, is a towering specimen, easy enough to make for a quick week-day lunch but also imbued with something special. 

While wine might not be quite as weekday-lunch-friendly, I’d urge you, if you can, to eat your sandwich with a glass of the Indocilis on the side, which is flattered by the nutty pistachio and mellowed by the burrata’s cream, and whose savoury side is complemented by the mortadella. Together, both speak of that Italian virtue of sprezzatura, of nonchalance as studied art, simplicity elevated until it reaches a quiet but distinct perfection.

Burrata and Mortadella Sandwiches with Pistachio Pesto
Serves 2

For the pistachio pesto:
75g pistachios
50g basil leaves
25g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
75ml extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch caster sugar

For the sandwiches:
1 large portion focaccia
50g rocket
4 slices mortadella
Caper berries
1 large ball of burrata
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. First, make the pistachio pesto. Add the pistachios to a frying pan and place over medium-low heat; toast, tossing frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown and fragrant. Set aside and leave to cool.

2. Once the pistachios are cool, add to a food processor, alongside the basil, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil. Season with flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of caster sugar to taste. Pulse on high, pausing to scrape down the food processor bowl if needed, until the pesto forms a thick paste. If you prefer, you can thin with water, adding a tablespoon at a time and blending between additions, though this is meant to be a thicker-than-usual pesto. (If you have leftover pesto, cover and keep in the fridge for up to a week, and use in sandwiches, dips, stirred through soups or mix with pasta.)

3. Using a sharp bread knife, divide the focaccia in half, and slice each piece through the middle. To assemble the sandwiches, carefully place half the rocket on each bottom layer of focaccia, and top each with two slices of mortadella. Scatter caper berries over both sandwiches before draining the burrata and cutting it in two; spread evenly over the mortadella layer in each sandwich. Season the burrata with flaky sea salt and black pepper, and dollop over the pesto. Place the top halves of the focaccia on both sandwiches and serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.