Wine-friendly salads: Denise’s favorite salad with wine pairing

best vinaigrette recipe

Salad with wine pairing? Yep, we’ve got Denise’s favorite – dig in! 

Denise says she could eat this salad every day with some minor variations to keep the taste buds happy. Her formula for this specific salad: red, white, and greens, a crispy crunchy fruit, some stronger cheese, and don’t forget the nuts!

This recipe is done with pear, but if you don’t have that on hand, don’t worry. Swap in apple or fig, even blueberries or strawberries will do. On the cheese, she uses gorgonzola here, but you could use gruyere if blue cheese isn’t your thing.

On the nut situation, any will do. And, to add some complexity try a nut oil for the dressing, but make sure you start with the Castello Houe vinaigrette.

This baby also makes for a nice vegetarian option with plenty of fat and protein. But, if you love the pancetta – as I do, most certainly add it!

The Castello's House Vinaigrette (maybe the best vinaigrette recipe EVER)
This makes a pint and a half or so of vinaigrette - a perfect amount to always be ready when you are in the mood for a salad. Make different variations and flavors by simply taking the amount you need, then adding any variety of flavors. 
Add a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs, or pesto, a little soy, and sesame oil. One of my favorites: pureè a quarter of a fresh mango and a little more dijon with shrimp or lobster. 
Having the base vinaigrette makes things fast, easy, and convenient. The base lasts up to 10 days without separating. It is still perfectly good when it separates -- bring it back to a creamy emulsion by blending again with the emersion blender and adding another teaspoon or so of dijon mustard.
One last note, I always add two kinds of acid because it makes a more complex vinaigrette and also lessens the bite a bit of red wine vinegar, which better helps you pair your salad with wine.
Check out this recipe

Red, White, and Green Salad

My perfect salad. I could eat this every day in one form or another. There are many forms it could take and easy variations depending on what you have or what you need to use. Just make sure you start with the red, white, and greens, a crispy crunchy fruit, a stronger cheese, and nuts. 
For instance, apple or fig would be a perfect substitute for the pear but it could even be strawberries or blueberries. Gruyere could replace gorgonzola if you are not crazy about blue cheese and really, any nut works. A nut oil for the salad dressing adds an important dimension and helps it pair even better with wine. But, a basic vinegar and olive oil dressing works just fine, too.
Author: Denise Pardini, Hotel Castello di Sinio


The Salad

  • 2 handfuls various hearty lettuces per person, or more
  • ½ head radicchio torn into pieces (tardivo or treviso-type radicchio is great too)
  • 1 small sweet fennel, sliced thinly preferably on a mandoline
  • 1 pear, very firm and crunchy, sliced thin on the mandoline (large chopped pieces work)
  • 1 medium gorgonzola piece cut into small chunks
  • ½ cup pecan halves, toasted (caramelized pecans optional, recipe follows)
  • 2 rashers thick-sliced bacon or prosciutto per person, cut in 1-inch pieces (optional)

Apple Cider & Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

  • cup apple cider vinegar (could also be raspberry vinegar, Champagne or Sherry)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 TBS dijon-style mustard
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • A few grinds of ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup walnut oil


Make the vinaigrette

  • Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil and walnut oil, in a blender. Leave the shallot whole, just drop it in with everything else. Blend on med-low until all the ingredients are blended and smooth. With the blender continuing to run, drizzle in the olive oil and then walnut oil in a steady slow stream. Halfway through adding the oil, increase the speed of the blender, and finish streaming in the oil. It should emulsify nicely and fairly thick. Taste with a lettuce leaf to make sure the vinaigrette is balanced. It should have a little spark but not too much. 

Toast the Pecans (or make caramelized)

  • Turn the oven to 375° F / 190 ° C. Spread the nuts in one layer on a small cookie sheet.  Once the oven is up to temperature, bake for about 6 minutes, checking the nuts halfway and stirring them around a bit. They should be nicely toasted, but not too dark. Pecans tend to brown quite quickly so watch closely. Exact cooking times vary from oven to oven.

Make the salad

  • Greens: choose a variety of more delicate greens, wash, and dry about 2 handfuls per person
  • Fennel: slice thinly on one of those inexpensive mandolines, either lengthwise or crosswise. You can do this advance but store the sliced fennel in a container with ice water, covered and in the fridge. Dry on paper towels when ready to use.
  • Radicchio: cut up the radicchio into 1 ½  to 2-inch pieces.
  • Pear: Do not peel the pear! Wash well and slice the pear on the mandoline. Do last minute so the pear does not brown.
  • Gorgonzola: cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Bacon or Prosciutto: fry in a skillet until crispy.
  • Pecans: Toasted!

Plating the salad

  • Put the greens, fennel, radicchio, and pear in a large bowl and toss with about 3 spoonfuls of vinaigrette per person. Pile the dressed greens on large dinner plates.  Divide and sprinkle evenly the gorgonzola, pecans, and bacon or prosciutto. If using bacon or prosciutto, place evenly between the salads, sprinkling each element around on the greens. Finish with a grinding of fresh black pepper.
  • Pour a lovely, medium body and fruity glass of red wine and enjoy! 

Salad with wine pairing ideas

Ada Nada Barbaresco DOCG Rombone 2011

The night we did our salad with wine pairing adventures, Denise selected a top Barbaresco cru with some age and did two salads, using stronger proteins with richness and fat. Don’t miss Denise’s Bistrot Salad recipe.

Keep in touch!

If you try this recipe out and find some fun variations, drop us a note here or let us know on social media! We love trying new things and exploring different ideas, so keep up posted.

And, follow our cooking adventures on social media – #cookingwithdenise!

Girl’s Gotta Drink

Chef Denise Pardini, Hotel Castello di Sinio:

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