When I cooked professionally in the Napa Valley in the early 2000s, wine pairings mostly consisted of matching dishes with a glass of either white or red – mostly Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – with an occasional sweet wine to finish a meal.
Today, though, it’s just as easy to find wines that are pink, orange or fizzy. Plus, we have more access to wines that leverage the sheer diversity of wine grapes grown all over the world. But while variety is exciting, it can also make it hard to make sense of it all.
In my book Wine Style, I encourage exploration by starting from the lightest wines up to big reds and dessert wines. To avoid getting lost in all the variety, I lean on a few key guidelines when pairing wine with food.
If a recipe is acidic, such as a green salad with a shallot vinaigrette, I pair it with a high-acid wine so the wine doesn’t taste flat. I avoid tannic wines with spicy recipes, as they become astringent next to the heat of the chillies.
And if I’m truly stumped, I turn to the ‘what grows together, goes together’ adage, looking at wines from the same region as the recipe. Within those principles, though, there’s flexibility.
Radicchio can be bitter when raw, but roasting it gives it a smoky sweetness. In this recipe, the beans provide a rich backdrop to the radicchio, while toasted hazelnuts offer a nutty, sweet accent.
Roasted radicchio with beans recipe
This is a pretty side dish that doubles as a light meal if an at-home happy hour stretches into dinner. Beans are magic with nearly any style of wine, and the sweet, roasted radicchio pairs well with a range of wines too, although red wine has the edge.
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes
- 1 small head radicchio* (about 170g)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1⁄2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tins (400g) cannellini or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 250ml water
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 100g toasted and crushed hazelnuts
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fine sea salt
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish (optional)
- Sourdough or other crusty bread to serve
1. Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Lightly oil a baking tray or line it with parchment paper.
2. Halve the radicchio through its core, cut into six wedges, put them on the prepared tray and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil, then use your hands to mix the oil into the leaves to ensure they are lightly coated. Arrange the leaves cut side down on the tray and season with a couple of pinches of salt. Roast until the edges crisp up – about 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over a medium heat, warm 3 tbsp oil. Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook until richly aromatic – 30 seconds to 1 minute.
4. Stir in the beans and water, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Season with pepper and 1⁄2 tsp salt, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water mostly evaporates – about 8 minutes – adding more water if the pan looks dry.
5. Mash the beans slightly with a potato masher or a wooden spoon and season with a squeeze or two of lemon. Taste and add more salt if needed. Cover and keep warm.
6. Spoon the beans into a warmed serving bowl and arrange the radicchio on top. Garnish with the crushed hazelnuts and grated cheese, if desired.
* Treviso radicchio looks like a purple oversized endive, with thinner leaves that are a little more tender than rounder varieties of radicchio. If you find it, use it in this recipe – the tender leaves roast really well. If radicchio isn’t available, serve the beans with a few handfuls of peppery rocket on top and opt for a rich white wine instead.
Wine to drink with roasted radicchio and beans
One of Italy’s most versatile food wines, thanks to its acidity and rounded body, Verdicchio is a structured wine – some even call it a red dressing up as a white. Here, the wine’s subtle almond and citrus-herbal flavours play against the flavour of the beans while standing up to the radicchio.
Sartarelli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Marche 2020
A fresh, stainless steel-fermented Verdicchio in all its textbook glory: apple and honey aromas and juicy peach and apple flavours are given definition by a distinct stoniness and a subtle floral streak with honey and lemon rind highlights. An elegant, food-friendly wine, this has a long finish that shows a typical note of bitter almond. 91 points.
Drink: 2021-2023 | Alc: 13%
Oregon Pinot Noir
Hazelnuts and Pinot grapes both grow in Oregon’s diverse Willamette Valley, so this pairing follows the adage ‘what grows together, goes together’. The acidity in Oregon Pinot Noir pairs well with the charred radicchio, while the wine’s earthy fruit complements the nutty hazelnuts.
Résonance, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA 2018
Delightful, with bright, lively fresh red fruit and floral aromas from the long, slow fermentation of the destemmed fruit (half from growers, half organic estate grapes). The first project for Maison Louis Jadot outside Burgundy, the philosophy of preferring to pick a bit earlier than a bit too late results in a reassuringly classic style. 94 points.
Drink: 2021-2031 | Alcohol: 13.5%
Wine Style by Kate Leahy is published by Ten Speed Press (£16.99)