Pasta Marco Pollo (w/ wine pairings)

Penne Marco Pollo

So yeah, this recipe is “borrowed” from a restaurant that I worked for years and years ago. We had this fantastic chef, Mark Laverty, who was far too talented for a strip mall Italian joint on Route 9 in Freehold, NJ. Anyway, my favorite dishes from Mark were his specials… Alligator, black bear steaks, buffalo, you know, anything that was atypical “New Joisey Italian Ristorante” cuisine. However, there was this pasta dish on our menu that was named after him, Fusilli Marco Pollo, that was amazing despite its simplicity… actually, it was amazing because of its simplicity. It had this pure, rustic, non-pretentious quality about it, and it was so delicious and beautifully balanced. Tender chicken, juicy sausage, roasted mushrooms, fresh tomato, and a roasted garlic & parmesan cream… what more could you want!?

I simply had to replicate it, at least to the best of my abilities. Truthfully, I’m not even positive that this is exactly how the dish read on the menu. It’s been 15 years for crying out loud, so maybe I’m way off in left field, but this is how my mind (whether sharp or failing, not quite sure) remembers it!

I lost touch with Chef Mark years ago, but who knows, maybe this post will somehow cross his path and give him a quick smile. Mark, on the oddball chance that you see this, I want you to know that you were one of the people that inspired me early on to want to learn how to cook, and for that you will forever have my gratitude. I know that I was that annoying waiter that had a million questions on why you do what, and half the time you probably wanted to stab me with the chit stick, but you didn’t, and most of the time you actually answered my questions… Thank you, and wherever you are, I hope that life is awesome man.

So here is my remembrance, whether accurate or not, of Mark’s strip mall Italian restaurant namesake dish… Pasta Marco Pollo.

Serves 4

3c Pasta (I used penne)
3/4lb Chicken, cubed (tenders or breasts, I used tenders)
1/2c All Purpose Flour, seasoned with 1tsp each of salt, ground black pepper & garlic powder
3/4lb Sweet Sausage, cubed
3c Baby Portobello Mushrooms, sliced
6 Cloves Roasted Garlic, see my recipe on how to roast garlic here
1tbsp Olive Oil
1/2c White Wine
1 1/3c Chicken Stock
1 1/3c Heavy Cream
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Crushed Red Pepper
2tbsp Unsalted Butter
1/2c Grated Parmesan
2c Plum Tomato, diced
3tbsp Fresh Chive, chopped

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, but don’t drop the pasta until I tell you to!

Place the seasoned flour in a bowl and lightly dredge your cubed chicken, shake off any excess.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or pot at medium-high. Add the sausage and floured chicken, cook until lightly browned on all sides. Add the sliced mushrooms, unsalted butter, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, sauté until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Increase heat to high and add the white wine, reduce by half. Add the roasted garlic, chicken stock and heavy cream, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered. Drop your pasta in the salted water, boil for 2 minutes less than the packaging specifies. Drain the pasta and toss it into the sauce, simmer for 3 minutes. Add the diced tomato and grated parmesan, toss well and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Taste to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking, add more salt or pepper to taste.

Plate it up then garnish the plates with the chopped chive. That’s it, you’re done! Wasn’t that easy? A restaurant quality pasta dish in the comfort of your own home, that cost you half the amount, if not less!

Now let’s talk wine pairings… You can actually go in a lot of different directions here. Full bodied whites, light to medium bodied reds, you could even do a Fino, Amontillado or Oloroso Sherry! Here are my recommendations.

Bodega Valdespino Dry Amontillado Tio Diego, Jerez, Spain – Bodega Valdespino is easily the most storied house in Sherry, proud owners of top soleras in both Jerez and Sanlucar, some of which have origins that date back to 1842. The Tio Diego is their entry level dry Amontillado, aged 8 years under the veil of flor, and an additional 6 years oxidatively. In the glass you’ll find a light-to-medium bodied wine of caramel color, with subtle aromas of butterscotch and clove. From the color and bouquet you would expect a sweet wine, but nothing could be further from the truth. On the palate is a crisp wine with bracing acidity and overt salinity, with notes of burnt orange rind, fresh herbs, clove and salted caramel, leading into a long, lingering finish. This is truly an amazing bottling considering it is their entry level Amontillado! PP Score: 92 (Retail $24-28)

Felsina Chardonnay I Sistri, Toscana, Italy – Felsina is one of the top houses in Chianti Classico, most famous for their Rancia Reserva as well as their Fontalloro IGT. However, they do produce a small quantity of Chardonnay from vineyards planted in Colli Senesi back in 1987, bottled as I Sistri. In the glass is a wine of golden hue, with a bouquet of tropical fruit, peach skin, vanilla and sourdough. On the palate the wine is full bodied, with notes that are consistent with the nose, framed by subtle acidity, a creamy mouthfeel and hints of toasted oak. PP Score: 90 (Retail $20-24)

Sean Minor Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California – The Carneros Pinot Noir by Sean Minor is absolutely everything a Carneros Pinot Noir should be. The wine is sourced from top vineyards on both the Sonoma and Napa side of the appellation, and aged for 16 months in French barrels, approximately 20% of which is new. In the glass you find a medium bodied wine with faint purple hues that soften along the edges. On the nose you find aromas of dark cherry, ripe strawberry, birch beer and that tell-tale Carneros smokiness. On the palate the wine is a veritable roller coaster… The opening is subdued, with nuances of strawberry, but the mid palate really brings you for a ride with bursts of ripe cherry intensified by notes of spice and earth as well as cranberry-esque acidity, leading into a long, lingering, slightly spicy finish, all framed by subtle tannins giving backbone and depth. PP Score: 91 (Retail $16-20) For more information on Sean Minor Carneros Pinot Noir click here

So there you have it, my rendition of a great chef’s recipe, and my recommended wine pairings. I hope you enjoyed the read, and I hope maybe Chef Mark will someday see this and give a chuckle. As always new content is on the way. In the meantime crack open a bottle of something awesome, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!



Published by Derek Martin

Husband, dad, home cook, wine snob... lover of bacon. I have spent my entire adult life surrounded by fine food and fine wines, starting with fifteen years working at, or running, some of New Jersey's top restaurants, and now the last two years working for one of the top fine wine distributors in the United States. I have absorbed a ton of information on food, wine, pairings and techniques during those seventeen years, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you!

4 thoughts on “Pasta Marco Pollo (w/ wine pairings)

  1. What a nice tribute to Chef Marc and what a delicious recipe. The only thing that scares me is the cream. Is Sean Minor Pinot Noir oaky in flavor? I’m not a fan of strong oak notes.

    Liked by 1 person

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