Healthy Red Wine and Food Pairings: Delicious Dishes and Recipes

In our previous healthy wine and food pairing article, we offered a range of lighter dishes to pair with white and rosé wines. This week, we’re tackling reds! Spices really come into play because when seasoned correctly, lighter meats like seafood can stand up to red wines with no problem at all. The cooking method is important too. Baking, grilling, and roasting can extract meatier flavors and won’t be as heavy as frying or barbecuing with thick sauces.

As with the previous piece, most of the following recipes are vegetarian but proteins can be swapped in or out according to personal preference.

Pinot Noir

Khoresh bademjun

Slice Japanese eggplants in half lengthwise and cook in a large pot with olive oil, in batches, until each piece is dark brown. Transfer to paper towels and dry. Add more oil to the pot and cook onion until soft. Add turmeric and cinnamon, then tomato paste, and cook until thickened. Add San Marzano tomatoes and cook down. Add in eggplants and water and simmer until thick and creamy. Add a squirt of lime juice and adjust seasoning. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and rice or flatbread.

Why it works: Eggplant works well with Pinot Noir anyway, but the interesting flavor combination here allows more nuances to shine. Cinnamon can highlight baking spices while lime extracts more high-toned brightness.


Grilled cauliflower steaks with romesco sauce

Slice the head of cauliflower into 2” thick steaks. Lightly brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Either grill or roast in the oven until cooked through. For romesco, add roasted red pepper, tomato paste, water, balsamic vinegar, bits of stale bread (to thicken), toasted hazelnuts, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and puree until smooth. Serve over grilled cauliflower.

Why it works: Cauliflower has been called to step up as a replacement for carbs and meats and it’s heeding the call of duty! The nutty quality of grilled cauliflower works well with Pinot’s mushroomy notes, while the romesco sauce extracts spice and pepper.


Vegetarian ban mi

Mix flaxseed meal with water and mix to combine. Let rest for five minutes. (This acts as a binder – an egg can be used instead.) In a food processer, pulse chickpeas, cooked farro, cooked oats, garlic, ginger, chile sesame oil, sriracha, and flax mixture until combined. Roll into tablespoon balls and bake at 440F until firm and crisp, about 20 – 25 mins. Slice ban mi rolls (or, baguette) lengthwise. Layer in shredded carrot, pickled daikon, thinly sliced cucumber, baked chickpea balls, and mayo-sriracha sauce.

Why it works: A fruity Pinot loves the spicy-creamy combination of the sauce, and the firm chew of the chickpea mixture is weighty enough. This could also work with a fuller-bodied rosé.


RELATED: Pre-Register for the Winetraveler Wine Club and Get Wordly Wine Pairing Recipes Delivered


Merlot

Tempeh bourguignon

Cube tempeh and marinade in red wine, herbs de Provence, mirepoix, garlic, and olive oil for at least an hour. Drain and reserve everything, setting the tempeh aside. Sauté tempeh to brown before adding balsamic vinegar and tomato paste. Add marinade with vegetables and cook until tender. Add chopped shiitake, water as needed, and simmer until everything is cooked through.

Why it works: This is a healthy twist on boeuf bourguignon and doesn’t take two days to make! The shiitake and tempeh play with Merlot’s meaty character.


Vegetarian kofta

Puree garlic, ginger, and jalapeno together to form a paste and set aside. In a large bowl, add black beans, scallions, cilantro, mint, garam masala, chili powder, breadcrumbs and egg and mix to combine, breaking up the beans along the way. Add half of the ginger paste in and mix well. Form into 1-inch balls and bake until browned at 400F for about 20 – 25 mins. In a large pan, sauté onion until soft. Add in remaining paste, along with San Marzano tomatoes, cumin, and coriander. Simmer for about 20 minutes before adding kofta to the mix. Simmer until the sauce reduces. Adjust seasoning and serve with warm flatbread.

Why it works: The question is actually why wouldn’t this work: from the meatiness of black beans to the warmth of cumin to the heat of jalapeno, this dish wraps itself around every aspect of Merlot. Dial the spices up or down to personal preference.


Sausage and peppers

Sauté down onion, garlic, and sliced red bell peppers until soft. Add in chopped black olives and stir. Add sliced tofu-based Italian sausages (Field Roast, for example) and brown. Add red wine, tomato paste, basil, thyme, and oregano. Adjust seasoning and serve with ciabatta.

Why it works: Merlot loves a little bit of heat to bring out the fruit! Olives bring out the umami character of Merlot, while the sausage and peppers bring out those fruity notes.


RELATED: Food and Wine Pairing Basics: Why Certain Foods Work With Certain Wines


Syrah

Socca

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of chickpea flour with 1 cup of warm water, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir until completely combined and let sit for at least 1 hour. In a small pan, sauté spinach, chopped black olives, tomato paste, and bomba paste with a little red wine. Stir to combine. In a large pan, pour enough olive oil to coat and place over high heat. Pour in batter and cook until the bottom is browned. Pop under the broiler to finish the top. To serve, slice the socca and top with spinach combination.

Why it works: Socca is similar to omelets or crêpes in that almost anything can be added. Here, the bomba paste is the perfect foil for Syrah’s bold fruit. Socca is hefty enough to work with a bolder wine like Syrah and is pretty much just pure protein.


Ratatouille

Cube eggplant and salt. Set aside for about 30 minutes. Rinse, then add to a large pot over medium heat and brown in olive oil. Transfer to a plate. Add cubed zucchini or summer squash to pot and brown. Transfer to a plate. In the same pot, add diced onion and cook until soft. Add bouquet garni and diced red pepper. Cook through before adding garlic and red pepper flakes. Add coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes, then eggplant and squash. Cook down until reduced and well combined. Adjust seasoning and serve with hearty bread.

Why it works: Syrah can be found throughout southern France, so it naturally works well with the region’s cuisine. Ratatouille makes use of fresh ingredients, which highlight Syrah’s dark fruits, while the herb combination brings out the florality.


Jackfruit, pulled pork style

Drain the jackfruit and break up chunks with a fork. In a large pan, heat grapeseed oil and sauté onion and red pepper. Add in crushed garlic. Add jackfruit, cayenne, red pepper, cumin, sweet paprika, a little liquid smoke, white pepper, salt, and black pepper. Completely combine and cook down. Pop under the broiler to brown bits of the jackfruit. Serve over buns with shredded cabbage and carrot and barbecue sauce (to personal preference.)

Why it works: The spicy-sweet combination highlights Syrah’s versatility. Go with a fruitier Syrah to stand up to the spiciness. White pepper and liquid smoke bring out some of the higher tones of the wine as well.


RELATED: 5 Fun Food and Wine Pairing Experiences To Try at Home


Cabernet Sauvignon

Chimichurri with grilled portobello

For the chimichurri, whisk together minces shallots, minced garlic, minced parsley, oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, red chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, soy sauce, and liquid smoke. Add in crushed mustard seed, crushed garlic, a little brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste and whisk until combined. Brush portobellos on both sides until well-covered before grilling. Char the mushrooms just a bit and serve with chimichurri.

Why it works: Charring the mushroom caps mimics the grilled meat that Cabernet Sauvignon loves while chimichurri brings out bright herbals. Just a little liquid smoke goes a long way, and here, it highlights Cab’s leather qualities. This is a great dish to show how well vegetarian dishes can work with heartier red wines.


Tuna with spice rub

In a jar, combine sea salt, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, file powder, black pepper, thyme, and garlic and onion powder. Mix to thoroughly combine. Completely coat each tuna steak with spice rub and let stand for 30 minutes in the fridge before grilling or pan-searing. Make sure the heat is high enough to blacken the steaks.

Why it works: Tuna is a great way to lighten up meat recipes because it has less fat but similar heft. The spice mixture works well with Cab’s black fruit and eucalyptus notes.


Oeufs en meurette

In a saucepan, add mushroom stock, red wine, mirepoix, bouquet garni, and black peppercorns. Simmer until reduced by half and remove bouquet garni. In another pan, sauté mushrooms in browned butter and set aside. Slice pieces of baguette and brush with olive oil before toasting under the broiler. Set aside. Return sauce to a low simmer and add mushrooms and a small piece of dark chocolate until completely heated and smooth. Adjust seasoning and make dimples in sauce and crack an egg into each. Gently cook, then finish in the oven until whites are set. Add sliced baguette to plate and spoon egg on top, along with a generous amount of sauce around it.

Why it works: The chocolate is the dark horse of this recipe and works wonders to tie in Cabernet’s deep cocoa notes. We’ve lightened this up by skipping lardons and a whole lot of extra butter, and we’ve kept in the veggies that are normally strained out. This feels a lot heartier than it is.


RELATED: How To Pair Wine With Steak According to a Steakhouse Sommelier


Zinfandel

Puttanesca sauce

Sauté diced onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add plenty of crushed garlic and red pepper flakes to taste. Add in anchovy filets and stir until melted in. Add in chopped black olives with a bit of reserved liquid from the olives. Add tomato paste and red wine and simmer just a bit before adding in San Marzano tomatoes. Add in capers and simmer. Adjust seasoning and serve with fresh pasta.

Why it works: Since Zinfandel is related to southern Italy’s Primitivo, it only makes sense that it works with spicy southern Italian dishes. Zin can be zesty, just like this sauce, so the amount of heat really ends up being a personal preference. Go with a more traditionally styled Zin to make sure it’s not too jammy.


Falafel

Soak dried chickpeas overnight and drain completely. In a food processer, add chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, garlic, onion, cumin, red pepper, and hot paprika and pulse until a coarse meal. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Form small patties and fry in hot grapeseed oil until brown on all sides. Serve with fresh veggies, tahini or other sauce, and pita.

Why it works: Similar to puttanesca, Zin works really well with Mediterranean and North African dishes. The spices bring out those of Zin, and the spiciness works with Zin’s fruit. Working with a higher acid Zin can complement a creamier sauce nicely, too.


Basque garlic soup

Break up peasant bread and bake until toasted. Allow to cool completely. In a large pan, add adequate olive oil and sauté bread chunks until almost blackened. Remove and drain. Add a head’s worth of crushed garlic cloves to olive oil and sauté. Add in Spanish smoked paprika and stir to coat garlic. Add mushroom broth and bring to a simmer. Add sherry vinegar before returning bread to the pot and cooking until it breaks up. Lower heat and whisk three eggs into mixture. Adjust seasoning before serving.

Why it works: The smoky paprika and very toasted bread bring out the smokiness of Zin, while the sherry highlights barrel aging. This is a simple but very satisfying dish, particularly on colder nights.

Additional Wine & Food Pairing Articles:

The Best Wines to Pair with Different Kinds of Pizza

How To Pair Wines With Asian Food

Great Comfort Food & Wine Pairings

Pairing Bordeaux Wines With Food

Healthy White & Rose Wine Pairing Ideas


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she is now nestled along the Central Coast in California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.

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