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Risotto: Must I use wine in a risotto?

Can I just use stock and seasonings in my risotto, or is there some magic to adding wine? I don't happen to have a dry white wine in the house and really don't want to go out and buy a bottle. If it makes any difference, I'm making a vegetarian mushroom risotto.

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  1. Of course not. It's nice to add the wine but there's no law that says it must be in there nor does the flavor suffer from its absence.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      Thanks. Exactly what I was thinking but then started to doubt myself after looking at recipes online and not seeing any sans wine.

    2. No need to use the wine, lots of recipes don't. Curious to know how you're dealing with a mushrooms--how are you cooking them and incorporating them into the dish?

      4 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        I will saute them prior and add them at the end, along with the butter, parm and fresh herbs.

        1. re: laurachow

          I asked because I find the flavor of the mushrooms to be most intense in the risotto if they are well browned first. Then I deglaze the pan they were cooked in and add that to the risotto to amp up the mushroom taste.

          1. re: escondido123

            I always just do them first in the same pan. Get them nice and brown in the pan in butter/OO and aromatics, then the rice, then wine (obviously optional in this case), then the rest of the process. Why bother with a second pan? You can't really overcook mushrooms and the flavor only gets more intense as they get firmer.

            1. re: acgold7

              Just a time saver for me. I get the risotto started in one pan, the mushrooms in another and then add them once browned. The risotto has already cooked for ten minutes so 'm done a little sooner.

      2. Wine can make a positive difference in some recipes, because certain flavor compounds are more readily soluble in alcohol than in fat or water. But the difference is very unlikely to be dramatic, and you can still have great risotto without it.

        1. I have never used wine in my risotto -- stock only.

          1. How about adding a dry RED wine? Sounds perfect for mushroom risotto.

            4 Replies
            1. re: linguafood

              If you don't mind purple risotto.

              1. re: acgold7

                Purple risotto? Dice some raw peeled beetroot and simmer in water/stock/red wine for about 30 minutes. Use this liquid and diced beet to make risotto. You cannot get any purpler (is that a word?). It looks stunning and goes really well with cold meats and salad. The only downside is that your next bathroom visit may make you worry about kidney failure, when it's just a coloration issue!

                  1. re: acgold7

                    Why would I, or anyone? Sounds & looks pretty, not to mention awesomely tasty.

                1. Just for information - A good dry vermouth can be kept for use in cooking. It keeps well and for months after it is opened or you can freeze it and use for some applications. I often prefer the taste of vermouth in cooking to the wine we might choose to drink, besides as you I often don't have open wine available
                  Of course you can make a perfectly wonderful risotto without wine.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mscoffee1

                    I second that suggestion. Good dry vermouth isn't expensive, it keeps well, and even Julia Child says (somewhere) that it's often an acceptable substitute for other white wines in cooking. And if you keep some gin and olives around, you can also accommodate any martini drinkers who happen to wander into your kitchen.

                    1. re: mscoffee1

                      Thanks for the tip about dry vermouth. I'm going to pick up a bottle!

                      1. re: mscoffee1

                        Yes, dry vermouth is the preferred addition for risotto in our household too, and it's easy to have available. I keep mine close by in the kitchen with the oils and vinegars

                      2. You don't have to add wine to the risotto, but you have to drink wine, not water, with it. There is some old saying that rice is born in water but must die in wine (can't remember the exact phrasing).

                        1. You don't have to add any wine or alcoholic anything to risotto if you don't want to. I usually make mine with chicken broth. I enjoy the flavor from the butter and parm at the end. :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: freia

                            I also add butter and Parmigiano Reggiano at the end because my wife insists on extreme creaminess.

                          2. NO, but I do. BTW, wine is vegetarian since it is made from grapes. I use either dry vermouth or madeira. Yeah, I know madeira isn't Italian, but it works.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ChiliDude

                              Don't apologize for using vermouth, if it works, it doesn't matter if it is or isn't Italian IMHO. As long as you like it, that's what counts! (sometimes these boards get so darn...purist? or OCD? LOL)


                              1. re: freia

                                The vermouth is Italian, Martini & Rossi. It's the madeira that is Portuguese.

                              2. re: ChiliDude

                                I've been vegetarian since 1984. Um, I think probably everyone is aware that wine is vegetarian and made from grapes. I just mentioned that I'm making a veggie risotto because most folks use a chicken stock in their risotto and it really changes the flavor profile.

                                1. re: ChiliDude

                                  I don't think the OP's original objection had to do with being vegetarian.

                                  But since you mention it, technically, it's not as clear-cut as that - a lot of wines and beers (though definitely not all) use non-vegetarian fining agents, such as gelatin, isinglas, etc., though they're not directly present in the final product.

                                  1. re: will47

                                    In that spirit, this site gives a pretty good breakdown of which beers and wines are vegan: http://www.barnivore.com/wine#

                                    I understand that there is a difference between vegetarian and vegan, but there are all sorts of levels of vegetarian observance ranging between the 2, and some people who are vegetarian might object to egg or fish-derived items in their food without necessarily being vegan.

                                2. I've subbed a teaspoon of white wine vinegar for the wine called for--I don't often have white wine in the house either. Waters mentions the substitution in The Art of Simple Food.

                                  1. If you happen to have beer in the house, you can make a nice risotto with that. I did one from Seductions of Rice and posted here:
                                    It had a mysterious, interesting flavor, which I liked a lot, and I am not a beer fan. I also made a risotto using pumpkin ale once.
                                    Last night I made a risotto using red wine and mushrooms (with beef stock, so ignore that part). It had a lovely, deep, rich flavor.
                                    And of course, as the above posters have stated, alcohol is not necessary, but I do think it adds a dimension.