Pearls Before Wine

Given the choice of any bottle on the shelf, red wine is probably the last variety I would reach for when I want a drink. Why, then, do I keep buying it regularly, and sometimes even more often than my preferred whites and roses? Few ingredients can unlock such a wide range of flavors, transforming an average dish into something spectacular. Red wine is my secret ingredient for many savory recipes.

The science behind cooking with wine really is fascinating. The alcohol content is almost completely nullified, leaving behind great taste without the buzz. Much like salt, the alcohol itself doesn’t exactly add to the final flavor but instead helps other elements taste more like themselves. It adds acidity for brightness, and umami for greater depth and savory richness.

Although you shouldn’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink, the very best bottles are not great cooking wine, especially when it comes to reds. Your best bets are a merlot, cabernet sauvignon, or red blend, and should cost somewhere between $3 to $15 a bottle. Choose a young (not aged) wine with low tannins, since these can impart a bitter aftertaste.

The best red wine to cook with, of course, is whatever you have leftover! That’s where this simple, comforting, yet dazzlingly luxurious side dish comes in. Acini di pepe take center stage, which are really just a fancy way of referring to pearl couscous in Italian. The Translation means “seeds of pepper,” which makes a final flourish of cracked black pepper only fitting.

Balancing out these intense, robust flavors, candy cap mushrooms introduce an unmistakably sweet flavor, shockingly much like maple syrup with an added earthy undertone. The combination is complex, nuanced, and truly greater than the sum of its parts. Even if you’re not much for red wines either, you’ll want to keep some on hand to whip this dish up in 15 minutes flat.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Red Wine Acini de Pepe

Red Wine Acini de Pepe

Balancing the intense, robust flavor of red wine, candy cap mushrooms introduce an unmistakably sweet flavor to tender little pasta pearls, creating an incredibly dynamic, comforting side dish.

Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot, Finely Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1 1/2 Cups Red Wine
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Candy Cap Mushrooms
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Acini Di Pepe or Pearl Couscous


  1. Set a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and saute the shallot and garlic for 3 - 5 minutes, until aromatic and lightly browned.
  2. Deglaze with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with your spatula to make sure that nothing sticks. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook until the mixture comes back up to a boil. Incorporate the mushrooms and pepper before adding the acini de pepe, stirring well.
  4. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Serve right away, while piping hot.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 318Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 403mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 3g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

6 thoughts on “Pearls Before Wine

  1. Pearls before wine??? <3 I've never heard of that type of mushroom before but the recipe sounds delicious. However, I'm sad that you and I differ on our go-to-wine as mine would be red. Ahh, well, it's the difference that keeps things interesting, right? :-)

    1. Actually, it sounds like we would be a great match! No fighting over bottles here. ;)

  2. I initially thought those were caviar but not from Hannah 😁
    Its and interesting dish and a real good use of leftover wine, definitely will make some soon and pairing them with something grilled, sounds like a nice side kick to it

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