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Wine you'd be happy to drink (Recipe: green herb risotto)


Addition: How many bottles of hot sauce equal one bad case of heartburn?

Subtraction: Can five boxes of dried pasta be removed from the pantry without making a dent in the supply?

Multiplication: If one bottle of vinegar is good, are two bottles twice as good? (Ted is laughing at this; I am a person who never thinks she has vinegar in the house, and buys bottle after bottle....)

Division: A one-pound bag of bay leaves, which looks so incredibly seductive in the spice store but turns out to be an awful lot of bay leaves that you cannot possibly use before they lose their oomph, should be shared among how many friends?

Arithmetic may not be the strongest suit in The Perfect Pantry, but even with questionable math skills, I've figured out a couple of things.

A bottle of cooking wine, the stuff you buy in the supermarket that's filled with salt and artificial food coloring, costs $3.99 for 16 ounces, or roughly 25 cents per ounce.

A bottle of wine you'd be happy to drink, that's also great for cooking -- something like this Yellow Tail or many of the good buys at Trader Joe's -- costs $5.99 for 750 ml (25.36 ounces), or roughly 23 cents per ounce.

So, good wine for cooking often is less expensive, and you can drink what you don't use in the recipe. It's a no-brainer, even for a non-drinker like me.

In cooking, wine features in marinades, as a primary cooking liquid, and as a flavoring for dishes like risotto. This isn't the time to use a $30 bottle; a good, drinkable wine under $10 is what you want, especially for long-cooking dishes like stew. The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, leaving behind the essence of the grape, sweetness and a hint of acidity.

Wine is a common deglazing agent, too. After you've sautéed something in a hot pan, such as meat or fish, what remains stuck to the bottom of the pan is called the fond (also known as the "brown bits"). To incorporate those flavorful bits into a pan sauce, first remove the pan from the heat. Pour in a bit of wine, and return the pan to the stovetop; this should prevent the alcohol in the wine from igniting. With the heat on high, the wine will come to the boil almost immediately. Use a wooden spatula to scrape the fond off the pan and into the wine. Add a pat of butter, and you have an all-purpose pan sauce.

Do you have a favorite wine-you'd-be-happy-to-drink that you use for cooking? Which red and white wines do you keep in your pantry?

Green herb risotto (risotto preboggion)

Adapted from The Top 100 Italian Rice Dishes. Author Diane Seed writes: “In Liguria this risotto is made with preboggion, a bundle of mixed wild herbs which vary according to the season. Local lore has it that during the Crusades a Genovese lord, Goffredo di Buglione, sent his men out to scour the alien hills for fragrant herbs for his dinner. These herbs became known as pro Buglione which was corrupted to preboggion.” Serves 6.


6 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 small zucchini, diced
4 oz baby spinach, washed, thoroughly dried, and finely chopped
2 oz finely chopped mixed mint, sage and rosemary, combined
1-1/2 oz each finely chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 (2 Tbsp) stick unsalted butter
Generous 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese


In a saucepan bring stock to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add garlic and onion. When they are soft, add rice and cook, stirring, until it is coated with the oil. Remove pan from heat, and stir in the wine. Return to the heat, and let the rice cook until the wine is almost fully absorbed. Now add the vegetables and herbs and gradually add the stock, a ladle at a time (reserving 1/4 cup), letting the rice absorb the liquid. After 20 minutes, when the rice is cooked, adjust the seasoning, add the reserved stock, butter and cheese and stir vigorously. Serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Chicken ratatouille
Grapefruit risotto
Mushroom risotto
Root-vegetables-with-beef stew

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I usually cook with wine that´s left in the bottle after a dinner or party, rather than the other way around, so it´s always wine I´d be happy to drink. No temptations to use DonSimón from a carton that way.

You can beat a deal like Yellow Tail, and you're right - it's actually pretty good! Great advice on risotto, and by the way, I have the same problem when purchasing vinegar and olive oil - I always forget what I have in the pantry. Maybe we should start a support group!

Yep, I agree whole-heartedly. do not use super expensive wine for cooking...but do not use a wine you would not drink yourself either. So those $10 bottle of wines are just perfect. I'm making osso bucco this weekend and you can be sure I'll be drinking my leftover wine while I wait for the stew to cook. :)

My husband travels to Italy frequently and risotto is one of his favorites...I may just try your recipe and use a veggie stock and replace the butter with more olive oil...we get the best...Tom gets a shipment from his friend Reno every November (brag!).

I also liked your interesting introduction about the risotto preboggion. I'll have to impress Tom, who thinks he knows all about rissotto! When I first looked at the words rissoto preboggion, I saw pre-blogging. My mind quickly thought, Lydia's recipe before she starting blogging? The quick head shake,and then the oh, preboggion! Duh!

I often stash a box of Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio in the fridge for cooking, but I'm just as likely to use vermouth, which we've always got on hand for cocktails.

I am not sure why I've never been a fan of Yellow Tail, but I must be the only one. Everyone around me loves it!! It's annoying too because at that value, it's practically a steal! Sigh, if you have other "cheap" wine recommendations, I'm all over it :) I have a few I like, but am always on the look out for more!

Wine (even fortified wine) can't ignite. The alcohol content is far, far too low.

Haha nice post - it's always a bonus when wine is used as an ingredient! Thanks for the tips on avoiding "cooking wines." Oh and thanks again for participating in the Monthly Mouthful!

Lobster, that is the best way -- drink first, then cook!

TW, I would be a charter member of the "forgot what I really have in the pantry" support group. When is the first meeting???

Veron, if you are making osso bucco, it must be Fall already!

Meg, I burst out laughing when I read this -- you are too funny! Pre-blogging, eh? Now I want to know more about this Reno olive oil; is it made in Nevada?

Jennifer, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I remember watching old Julia Child shows -- she used vermouth quite a bit in her recipes.

Radish, if you are lucky to live near a Trader Joe's or a Costco, you can find some great cheap wines (or at least my husband and cooking friends tell me the wines are great -- as a non-drinker I can't vouch for these personally). We used to buy the famous "two-buck Chuck" (Charles Shaw) from Trader Joe's -- maybe it's three-buck Chuck now? They also had a nice wine from Argentina called Boca Grande, which was in that same under-$5 range. Anyone else have specific recommendations?

Nick, you're absolutely correct, of course. I should have said "so the pan won't bubble up and spray", which is what happens when you add the wine over heat. Thanks for the catch.

Hillary, Monthly Mouthful was fun -- I hope everyone will head over to your blog for a look-see. Here's the link:

I have never cook with a wine I wouldn't drink... and I use wine almost every day in something.
Learned that one from Julia years ago.
It's nice that you are able to find decent wines at a good price... that's one big plus for this side of the pond; wine is a staple, therefore reasonable.
Love your math skills - much resemblance to mine: don't know? buy another one just in case!

TJs have many good value-for-money wine. Currently I think I have only one 2-buck chuck Chardonnay chilled in my fridge veg chiller :O
Have not drank or cook with it yet.

The wine I enjoy so far got to be Gewürztraminer from Alsace, France.

Nice to know that yellow tail is a good yet affordable wine. I'm afraid that I am guilty of buying small cheapie smallish boxes of wine for $4, for cooking because certainly there in none ever left over of the "good stuff". My reprehensible habit is now kicked after hearing your sound mathematics.

Katie, when we visit my sister-in-law in France, we see everyone with their jugs in the car, stopping to fill up with wine at the local wineries. I love that. And, yes, I am the queen of "buy another one!" Want to join TW's support group with me???

Tigerfish, I don't know anything about wine, but friends tell me that Costco is also a good source for some real wine bargains.

Callipygia, I like Lobstersquad's idea -- buy wine to drink, and cook with the leftover. But I learned this from watching Julia Child on television, too -- use drinkable wine. And knowing it doesn't cost more makes the argument even more compelling. When I actually looked at the label on what's called "cooking wine" in the supermarket, I was horrified -- it's all additives.

Menage a Trois, a blend of 3 reds, is a current favorite.(for drinking) For cooking, I usually use a heartier Cab Sauv, like Beringer Founders Estate. And one of my favorite Chards is Lindemans Bin 65. All extremely drinkable, which is the ONLY way I would cook with it!

Love TJs! I use their 2 buck chuck (3 bucks here). :)

That wine happens to be in my fridge and I cook with it all the time. Great price, good taste - can't beat the combination.

FarmgirlCyn, thanks for the great recommendations!

Amy, I had a feeling it would be three-buck chuck by now -- but still a great buy.

Cate, I can't remember who first turned me on to Yellow Tail, but it seems to be great for cooking (both the whites and the reds), and somehow the leftover always finds its way into a glass with dinner....

We like the Foxy brand (I prefer the red for drinking, but the white is great in risotto), and Barefoot is super-cheap and not so bad either. Not what I would serve to guests, but for every day drinking and cooking it's pretty good. I am also a chronic vinegar-buyer -- it's so much more fun to have several to choose from! Tasty-sounding risotto!

I agree. I use TJ's brands in the $5-10 range for cooking. I always remember Lidia Bastianich saying that it's not necessary to use a really expensive bottle of wine to cook with, but cautioned to use one that you would gladly drink of glass of.

Hi Lydia,
Reno Noche (not Reno Nevada, so funny!) is a man from Italy man who is a friend of my husbands. Reno grows and processes his own olives. Each year he sends us tins of the best olive oil you've ever tasted! We are now VERY spoiled.

Jennifer, I'd forgotten about Barefoot -- that's another wine bargain that's easy to find. Thanks!

Susan, if it's good enough for Lidia, it's good enough for me. (You'd be amazed at how often I get email asking me about something on one of her shows, or in her magazine... I'm flattered to be confused with her. Do you think anyone ever emails to her, thinking it's me?!)

Meg, ha! I wondered about olive oil in Nevada!!! So this makes much more sense. You are lucky to have your own private Reno.

I like Yellow Tail too, it's good value. Apparently, the producers tailored it for the American market.

After much "research" I found a cask wine that I like to use for cooking and also for drinking (those days when I just want a glass and don't want to open a whole bottle). It's Linderman Soft Dry Red. I've used it for both savoury (e.g. braised shank) and sweet (poaching pear, german red wine cake) dishes.

Oh yes... you should always cook with a wine that you can enjoy drinking. That is part of the fun of cooking with wine. A little bit here, a little drink there.

Nora, thanks so much for the recommendation. (I didn't know that about Yellow Tail -- wonder what it means to tailor for Americans?)

Kristen, yes indeed -- all of that tasting is called "quality control", isn't it?!

Drink it then cook with it.
If it's good enough to drink, then it's good enough to cook with. If I don't want to drink it, I sure don't want it intensified in my food.
Yes, I love your math.
I don't mind ending up with two of something from a shopping trip. But not getting the one thing I'm out of is a bummer.

MyKitchen, the flip side of buying two of the thing you already have is forgetting the one thing you really need. Always happens to me, too.

Hey, we've tried this wine, and though I just take a sip as i don't drink, my husband loved it! I'll gladly take the risotto:)

Mansi, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I don't drink either, but I do cook with wine -- in fact, I can't imagine risotto without it!

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