Cooking with wine doesn’t have to be complicated! Once you understand a few basics, adding vino to your next dish will be easy — especially when you can get all your meal’s ingredients in one place. Keep reading to learn some essential tips for cooking with wine and how to prepare one of our favorite white pasta sauce recipes featuring wine.
What’s the Best Wine for Cooking?
First things first: if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it to cook. Cooking with wine is all about imparting the nuanced flavors from the wine into the food, so if you don’t appreciate the taste in your glass, you definitely won’t love it in your meal. It doesn’t matter so much whether you spend $5 on a bottle or $50; what matters most is that you enjoy the wine you’re cooking with.
And despite the name, cooking wine isn’t usually great for cooking. With lots of added salt, it often breaks the “if you wouldn’t drink it” rule. If a bottle of cooking wine tempts you, try looking for its non-cooking wine equivalent instead.
Should You Cook with Red or White Wine?
You can use both red and white wine to cook; it all depends on what you want to make. A handy way to remember what wine to use when cooking (if you don’t have a recipe) is to pair wines for cooking as you would to drink.
- Reds typically pair well with red meats and red sauces.
- Whites typically pair well with pork, poultry, fish, white sauces, and veggies.
For versatile options, look for a dry Pino Grigio or a medium-bodied Merlot.
Ways to Cook with Wine
There are so many ways to use wine in cooking that it really depends on how you like to cook and what you’re looking for in your dish. Below are a few creative cooking-with-wine ideas:
- Create flavorful cream sauces by adding wine
- Use wine as a marinade
- Add wine to soups and stews
- Poach fish in wine
- Add complexity to pasta sauces by adding wine
- Braise vegetables with wine
How Much Wine Should I Add?
When you’re cooking with wine you love, it’s easy to get carried away with how much you add to a dish. In general, you’re using wine as accent or addition, not as a replacement for water or stock. If you don’t have a recipe that includes suggested amounts, here are some general guidelines for adding wine to your dish:
- Sauces: 1 tablespoon of wine per cup of sauce
- Gravies: 2 tablespoons of wine per cup of gravy
- Soups: 2 tablespoons of wine per cup of soup
- Stews and Meats: 1/4 cup of wine per pound of meat
- Poaching Base for Fish: 1/2 cup of wine per quart of liquid
And remember, if you’re adding wine to a recipe that didn’t initially call for it, reduce the amount of acids (such as vinegar or citrus) that you’re adding to correct for the acidity of the wine.
Choose the Right Cookware when You’re Using Wine
You’ll also want to consider the actual dish you’re cooking with. The acidity in wine can react with certain materials such as aluminum, copper, iron, and non-stainless steel. Pots and pans made with these materials are called “reactive cookware,” and cooking with wine or other acidic foods can leave an unwelcome metallic taste in your dish when you use them. Instead, use “non-reactive cookware” made of stainless steel, glazed ceramic, or glass. You may also find reactive cookware that has an enamel coating or anodized finish that is non-reactive; that’s fine to use as well.
Be Warned: The Alcohol Doesn’t Necessarily “Cook Off”
Contrary to popular belief, wine used to cook will retain some alcohol after you add it to the dish. Unless you’re using a slow cooker and moderate amounts of wine, you should anticipate some remaining alcohol content in whatever you’re serving. It certainly won’t be enough to cause intoxication, but be aware — especially if children are at the table!
An Easy White Pasta Sauce Recipe with Wine
For a simple white pasta sauce, you need just a few ingredients:
- 1 lb. dried pasta (we like linguine or spaghetti)
- 1 cup of dry white wine, like Pino Grigio
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley as an optional garnish
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the directions on the package or until al dente. While you strain the pasta, save 1 cup of the water before discarding the rest. Simmer the wine for about two minutes in the pot, and then add the pasta water, butter, and salt. Bring that to a boil.
Next, add your pasta, toss it with the sauce, and remove everything from heat. Last, stir in the parmesan, garnish with parsley, and serve!
Get All the Best Ingredients for Your Meal at VG's Grocery
Now that you’re ready to start cooking with wine, check out our weekly ad to find great deals on all the ingredients for your next great meal.
This week, you may want to try Gnarly Head California varietals in your culinary exploits. Their Pino Grigio and Merlot are great options for beginners and experts alike, and they’re on sale this week in our stores!