Flourless “Chocolate Explosion” Cake


Flourless “Chocolate Explosion” Cake with Tawny Port

Recipe: (makes 2x 8″ cakes)

  • 8oz Dark Chocolate, 65% Cacao
  • 8oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 12oz granulated sugar
  • 8oz unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5oz EVOO
  • Ganache topping
    • To make the ganache topping, put 12oz of dark chocolate (65% cacao) into a stainless steel (or glass) bowl. Heat up 10oz of heavy cream in a small sauce pot until it looks like it is ready to start boiling up. Pour the cream into the chocolate and wait about 45 second, then start to whisk slowly until the milk and chocolate are incorporated. Take 4 oz of room temperature unsalted butter and add and melt into mix. You can let cool and store into refrigerator for later use. You will need to heat the gnash in a bain-marie to melt so it can be poured over the dessert.


  1. Preheat Oven to 375F.
  2. Using a bain-marie (or the 5qt bowl of your kitchen aid mixer on top of a pot with simmering water), place the chocolate and the butter until its melted.
  3. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the sugar.
  4. Once the bowl has cooled, start “slowly” adding the eggs (the mix should not be hot or the eggs will coagulate). Mix completely until all eggs are incorporated in the chocolate.
  5. Add the EVOO.
  6. Slowly start adding the cocoa powder, this will take effort to mix into the chocolate so be patient and do NOT try to mix it all at once or it will become very messy!
  7. Split the mix into (2) 8″ springforms and place in the oven for 20-22 minutes until you can stick a toothpick in and it comes out dry. Do Not Over Bake!
  8. Place the springforms on a rack to cool. After an hour remove the cakes from the springforms, cover and place in the refrigerator.
  9. After 2 hours remove the cakes and place on a rack on a sheet pan and pour the ganache mixture over the cake to encase the entire top and sides. Place back into refrigerator and leave until ready to slice… oh so good!!!!
  10. Serve with a Tawny PORT!!!

Mise en place


Bain-Marie melting butter and chocolate


Adding Sugar


Adding Eggs


Adding EVOO


Adding Cacao


Cooked Cakes


Cake removed from Spring Board


Braised Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts


Braised Lamb Shanks fall off the bone tender. I made this over the weekend and I did two types of platings to show off the beauty of this meal.


  • 4 Lamb Shanks (approx. 0.75 to 1.00 lb each)
  • Mirepoix
    • Large White Onion (chopped)
    • 4 Carrots (oblique cut)
    • 2 Celery Stalks (split and diced)
    • 5 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
  • Flour (to dredge shanks)
  • Salt, Pepper, Paprika (to taste)
  • Bottle of Red Wine (just because)
  • Olive Oil (or safflower oil)
  • Dutch Oven

Preheat your oven to 325F. Dredge Shanks in flour (salt, pepper, paprika added) and shake off excess. Brown shanks in dutch oven on medium high heat in olive oil on all sides (about 3-4 minutes each side). You want to achieve GBD (golden brown delicious). Remove each piece and set aside. Drain half the oil out. Add Mirepoix to dutch oven and brown for 5 to 7 minutes on medium high heat. Add the wine to the mix and deglaze the dutch oven and bring wine to a boil for 4 minutes to reduce out the alcohol. Put the shanks back in the mix and add water so that 3/4 of the shanks are covered. Put lid on dutch oven and put in pre-heated oven for 1-3/4 hours. You MUST turn the shanks at 1 hour to get an even cook. Use a fork to test tenderness and if the meat is very tender (almost fall off the bone) remove from the oven and let the shanks rest on a plate. Cover with tin foil. Continue with sauce below.


Strain the liquid of the sauce into a sauce pan trying not to get any solids from the mirepoix. Use a strainer with cheese cloth for this task. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce by half. While boiling, make a roux (2 tablespoons butter, equal part flour). For those that have never made a roux, the flour and butter must weigh the same, not by volume. Basically 3 oz of butter to 3 oz of flour using a scale. Make a brown roux and add to the sauce 1/4 at a time until the sauce is creamy. Do not make it too thick. Once done it can be used immediately or kept warm.


Polenta is extremely easy to make. You can get a polenta mix and all you need to do is add butter and parmesan. Boil 4 cups of water and slowly add the cornmeal while stirring. Once all the cornmeal is in the water, keep stirring every minute for about 25 minutes until the water is all evaporated into the cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir in. Add 3/4 cup of parmesan (more if you want it really cheesy) and stir until all combined. Serve.


Take 1 lb of fresh brussels sprouts, wash and let dry. Cut each stem end off and slice each in half. Cut 8 oz of pancetta into small dice and heat over high heat until cooked and remove from pan. Drain 1/2 the fat. Put brussels sprouts in pan as one layer and sauté until nice and brown on each side. Combine brussels sprouts and pancetta.


Plating the dish can be accommodated in a bowl or on a plate. Have fun, garnish with baby greens, crispy onions and enjoy!!!


Wine pairing for this meal would be a nice Cabernet or Merlot. One of our wineries, Ancient Peaks in Paso Robles makes great wines and their Cabernet and Merlot are top sellers in that category at Pairings. You could also use a nice Super Tuscan from Italy, we carry a VALDISANTI from Tuscany, Italy. French wines would include a red such as our Bordeaux CHATEAU LA RAME or a Cotes du Rhone GUICHARDE.


Seared Ahi Tuna

Our seared Ahi Tuna starts with a 6oz piece of SAKU. We make our own spice mix of black and white sesame seeds, chili, red pepper flakes, crushed peppercorns, salt, pepper, celery seeds and paprika.

John-Ahi copy

The pan is prepped with EVOO/Canola blend with peppercorns and is heated high until the peppercorns start to pop. We then sear each side for 10 seconds on high heat, remove and let rest for at least a few minutes. The tuna is then cut on an angle and served over a bed of fresh spinach.

The accompanying sauce is our lemon-garlic aioli.

This is a customer favorite. We pair this with either a Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Rose’ from Chile or a Westside Crossing Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, CA.


Marinara Sauce Padrini- My version of our family recipe… (yes theres wine in there!!)

ChefJohnMarinaraHere at Pairings we use our marinara sauce on about 6 of our dishes / flatbreads. I wanted to use a recipe handed down from my family in Italy with my own twist on it. We make a lot of this, 10 quarts a week (yes a week). I usually prepare this on Wednesday and it usually gets into service the next day. having it hold for a day enhances its flavors… We do not use ham, salt pork or beef (which would be my choice) as some of our customers prefer not to have meat in their sauce… (I keep a small secret stash of that gravy [yes if it has meat its considered gravy, not sauce] just in case though.. shhhhhh)

I use the following ingredients:

  • 2 large white onions (diced)
  • 12 fresh garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 cup fresh cut parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 14 lbs crushed tomatoes
  • 4 lbs tomato paste
  • 3 lbs tomato sauce
  • 3 cups fresh cut basil (chiffonade)
  • 2-3 cups parmesan cheese (fresh grated)
  • 750 ml red wine (the secret!) alcohol burned off in sauce pan prior to adding

I cook this is a very large pot starting with sweating of the onions and garlic in EVOO, adding in half the parsley. I then add the tomatoes, sauce and paste stirring the mix until it starts to bubble. Then lower the heat to simmer and add the remaining parsley, basil, parmesan and wine and give it a real good stirring to mix it all in. Let it cook on low for an hour. Once off the heat  I put portions in the Vitamix and blend for 10 seconds to make sure the basil and cheese are completely mixed in and blended. Once completely cooled, we then store it in air tight containers to prepare for service…

The secret…. I’ve been using Vino Godfather lately (my nickname at the restaurant is The Godfather so it fits!!)

mangia tutti – Chef John Campanella 



Grilled Garlic-Herb Shrimp with Pesto-Basil-Parmesan Sauce and Wine Pairing

IMG_2141We take 6 jumbo (16/20) prawns and marinate them in a garlic, herb, olive oil and pesto marinade. We use a Pesto-Basil-Parmesan sauce to compliment the dish along with a bed of alfalfa sprouts. The prawns are grilled 2 minutes on each side (do not overcook) then plated with a drag of the PBP sauce. This is a very popular item on our menu and has become a staple in our arsenal. This is a very straight-forward recipe and can be duplicated at home and cooked in a sauté pan.

We pair this with a Pinot Gris or a Riesling.