Cheese, Wine, and Bread: Discovering the Magic of Fermentation in England, Italy, and France

Katie Quinn. Photo courtesy of William Morrow.

         Katie Quinn wasn’t content to just enjoy a chunk of the English classic Montgomery’s Cheddar, a hunk of crusty bread with a soft inner core from Apollonia Poilâne, or a glass of Nebbiolo, the grape variety from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region known for its  strong tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent.

Katie Quinn working on a goat farm in Somerset, England. Photo courtesy of

         Instead, living in New York she had worked her way up from being an NBC page to her dream job as an on-camera host at Now This News, she found herself back home recuperating in Ohio after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in an accident. With time to ponder, her avid curiosity led her to ask a question—“how can I love these great foods–bread, wine, and cheese without knowing how they’re made?”

         Of course, many of us would be content just to pour another glass of wine and slice a gooey piece of Brie, but Quinn couldn’t leave it there.

For some of use, including me, the realization that  cheese and bread are as much a part of fermentation as wine is a revelation. It takes a little more connecting of dots to realize that cheeses are fermented dairy products and bread ferments through the use of yeast.

Working as a cheesemonger at Neal’s Yard Dairy. Photo courtesy of

         “I realized that there was a story to be told,” she says. “I could have just nerded out as a history geek to write the book, but I wanted to really experience the process of fermentation and how it creates these foods we love. I wanted this to be an immersive experience.”

And so in her newest cookbook, Cheese, Wine, and Bread: Discovering the Magic of Fermentation in England, Italy, and France (William Morrow 2021; $22.63 Amazon price), we follow  Quinn on her all-encompassing road trip as she embarks upon an in-depth exploration of all three necessary food groups. She became a cheesemonger at Neal’s Yard Dairy, London’s premiere cheese shop. But that was just the start in her cheese career. Soon, she was working on a goat farm in rural Somerset where she describes the cute critters as just smart enough to be obnoxious. It was during her exploration that she discovered the role British women play in cheesemaking (you have to try her recipe for Cheddar Brownies which she’ll be demonstrating at her upcoming virtual book launch this Tuesday, April 27—see below for details on how to sign up).

Photo courtesy of

         Next she’s hanging with Apollonia Poilâne of Paris’ famed Poilâne Bakery, apprenticing at boulangeries in Paris learning the ins and outs of sourdough, and traveling the countryside to uncover the history of grains and understand the present and future of French bread and global bread culture. Next stop Italy, where she  gives readers an inside look at winemaking with the Comellis at their family-owned vineyard in Northeast Italy and visits vintners ranging from those at small-scale vineyards to large-scale producers throughout the country.  Taking a side road, so to speak, she discovers her great grandfather’s birth certificate and become eligible for dual citizenship. So entranced with the country, she and her husband Connor decided to make their home in the Puglia region in southern Italy.

Photo courtesy of

         Quinn, an author, food journalist, YouTuber, podcaster, and host, describes herself as having a real appetite to explore. A great storyteller, she also shares recipes such as Zucchini Carbonara, Tortellini in (Parmigiano Reggiano) Brodo, Ciambelline al Vino (Wine Cookies), and Walnut and Raisin Rye Loaf, which are interspersed through the book.  

Virtual Book Launch of Cheese, Wine, and Bread.

When: Tuesday, Apr 27, 2021, 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM CST.

Cost: Book and shipping:  This ticket includes a signed copy of the book and shipping – Shipping within USA only (THE BOOK WILL BE SHIPPED IN ABOUT A WEEK AFTER THE EVENT). $44 or Book and Ticket with pick-up at Anderson’s Naperville store. $34.

To join through Anderson’s or other bookstores throughout the U.S., visit

The following recipe is from CHEESE, WINE, AND BREAD by Katie Quinn Copyright © 2021 by Katie Quinn. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Photo courtesy of William Morrow.

Spaghetti all’Ubriaco (Drunken Pasta)

Coarse sea salt

12 ounces dried spaghetti

1/4 cup extra-virgin

olive oil

4 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup freshly grated

Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup  finely chopped nuts (I like pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprigs of parsley, for garnish

Fill a large pot three-quarters full of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of coarse salt (the adage “It should taste like the sea” is a good gauge of how much). Cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the package for al dente. (You don’t want it to be completely cooked because it will continue cooking in the red wine later.)

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Pour the wine into the pan with the garlic and stir. Remove from the heat while the pasta finishes cooking.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Add the pasta to the pan with the wine and garlic over medium heat and stir. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the wine, taking on a plum hue.

Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cheese and nuts. Stir in a tablespoon (or more) of the reserved pasta water; its starchiness mixes with the fat in the cheese to create a silky coating on the noodles. Finish with the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you think the dish is asking for it.

Serve garnished with parsley and topped with more cheese and enjoy slurping down the drunken noodles.

Cleveland Kraut: Crafted Fermentation

          Fall always reminds me of sauerkraut because that’s when my Romanian grandmother would bring home the large heads of cabbage. Some she would parboil, then peel the leaves off the core and fill with meat for stuffed cabbage. Others she would grate into large piles which she would then place in containers to ferment into sauerkraut. When it had fermented, weeks and weeks later, she would serve it with stuffed cabbage or a Romanian sausage similar in taste to Polish sausage. Of course, adding sauerkraut as a topping for a brat in a bun is common at football games, but my grandmother never served that.

          For all of my enthusiasm for sauerkraut, I never realized it was considered a super healthy food until recently. Reading a WebMD article, I learned sauerkraut contains much more lactobacillus than yogurt, making it a superior source of this important probiotic. A few bites of sauerkraut everyday are said to help those with ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. The healthy aspects of sauerkraut are due to the fermentation process which is thought to create certain plant compounds that might destroy precancerous cells. It’s also low on calories though when you use it in a Rueben or grilled cheese sandwich, it isn’t exactly a low calorie meal.

          There are caveats to buying sauerkraut and one is to make sure that it isn’t pasteurized because that destroys the benefits of fermentation.

.          Discovering all this positive sauerkraut information was surprising. And so was finding out that it no longer is just an old fashioned Eastern European or German dish.  Cleveland Kraut from Cleveland Kitchen, a relatively new company named by USA Today as one of their top ten best new health foods, sells a variety of sauerkraut in flavors such as Whiskey Dill, Roasted Garlic, Classic Caraway, Curry and Beet Red. Their Gnar Gnar--a spicy mixture of green cabbage, green bell peppers, jalapenos, kosher salt, leeks, Sriracha, garlic and red chili, is similar to kimchi, the fermented Korean condiments which can range in heat from mild to fiery hot. If you want to mix it up, there’s their Variety Pack.

Cleveland Kraut, which comes in pouches, is best eaten raw. It’s crunchy and tasty. Once cooked, the heat destroys the probiotic value though it still retains its other healthy benefits. That’s one reason why canned sauerkraut doesn’t have as many health sauerkraut benefits.

          The following recipes are from

Classic Reuben

2 slices rye or sourdough bread

4-6 ounces corned beef

2 slices of Swiss cheese

1/4 cup Whiskey Dill kraut

Thousand Island Dressing (to use either in the sandwich or as a dip)

Assemble the first three ingredients (bread, beef, cheese) and toast open faced in a 350 degree oven to melt the cheese. Top with kraut and other slice of bread (and Thousand Island if you are using it in your sandwich).

Chili con Carne with Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion diced

2 cups Roasted Garlic Kraut

1 pound 90% lean ground beef

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cup beef broth

1 15 ounces can petite diced tomatoes

1 16 ounces can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 8 ounces can tomato sauce

Optional toppings:

Diced parsley or cilantro

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Add the olive oil into a large pot and place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and the Roasted Garlic Kraut. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground beef to the pot. Cook for another 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chili powder, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well mixed.

Add the broth, diced tomatoes, drained kidney beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.

Bring the mixture to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low / medium-low and gently simmer the chili uncovered for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm and garnish with desired toppings.