Think of the recipes you turn to time and time again. What do they have in common? They’re comforting, familiar and satisfying. These are the dishes that feed you and your household on a busy weeknight, the ones you trust to impress your friends when you host your first (or 50th) dinner party, the plates or bowls you tuck into when you need a little happiness in your day. They deserve a bottle of wine alongside them that will bring out the best in both food and drink. These are some combinations recommended by top sommeliers, along with recipes we love from our sister site, The Spruce Eats.
Banana Pudding: Tokaji
If you’ve bought too many bananas and have tired of using them in bread or muffins, pop a few into the freezer until you have time to whip up banana pudding, a Southern favorite. The key to serving a wine with any dessert is to select one that’s at least as sweet as the dish, otherwise both the wine and the meal-ender can come across as overtly sour. For this, Jacob Lawrence, the general manager of El Gaucho in Seattle who also heads up the wine program, loves Tokaji from Hungary with bananas. “The floral and tropical notes complement the tropical characteristics of banana so well, and it has a welcoming nuttiness that goes hand-in-hand with the cinnamon and nutmeg spice notes often found in a freshly baked banana bread pudding,” he says. “Together, they are one.”
Recommended bottle: Royal Tokaji Aszu Red Label ($55), made with furmint, hárslevelű and muscat de lunel grapes. “Bursts of mandarin, apricot and nectarine overwhelm the senses, finished with a drizzle of acacia honey,” says Lawrence. “The finish is sweet but is partnered with great acidity, allowing the banana pudding to not be overwhelmed by its richness.” He recommends seeking out a 2013, as it was one of the top vintages for Tokaji.
Lentil Soup: Côtes du Rhône
Whether you set it and forget it in the slow cooker or hurry up and prep it in the Instant Pot, lentil soup is a flavorful and budget-friendly dinner option. You can make a vegan version by using vegetable stock instead of chicken, while meat eaters may choose to add some andouille or kielbasa. Select a heartier red such as a syrah, which can sometimes have a bit of a smoky aroma, as well as hints of black pepper, rendering it especially great with any smoked sausage. Wines labeled Côtes du Rhône are a blend of grapes that usually include syrah. “A classic Côtes du Rhône will endow soft baked strawberry and cherry notes, as well as enhancing earthy notes, and add a subtle spice to the lentils,” says Braithe Tidwell, a sommelier and the beverage director at Brennan's in New Orleans.
Recommended bottle: Château de Tours Côtes du Rhône ($40). “Organically grown, this famous château centers its wines around the grenache grape,” says Tidwell. “Dusty and earthy, this wine is rich and savory, [with] hints of strawberry and raspberry both cooked in the sun with definitive spice notes, specifically in the cumin and allspice category.”
Mac and Cheese: Crémant
Maybe you’re a purist and like an easy mac and cheese consisting of creamy elbow noodles tossed with milk and cheddar cheese, then baked and topped with breadcrumbs. Or perhaps you like to swank it up with melted Gruyere and succulent chunks of lobster. The point is that everybody loves homemade mac and cheese—all the better if it doesn’t start in a box with a packet of powder. With cheese, milk (or cream) and butter aplenty, this dish can be quite rich. Sparkling wine acts as a palate scrubber to cut through and prepare your taste buds for another bite of gooey deliciousness. “I love crémant because it’s way more affordable than Champagne, super delicious and made from the same grapes,” says Tidwell. “[Those] from Burgundy have gorgeous brioche and buttery qualities while balanced with lively crisp acidity.”
Recommended bottle: Domaine Michel Briday crémant de Bourgogne NV ($30), a traditional-method sparkling wine from Burgundy made with a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté grapes. “This wine combines Granny Smith apple and lemon citrus notes with a soft creaminess,” says Tidwell. “It also possesses enough of a yeasty quality to match the bread crumbs on your homemade mac.”
Pasta Primavera: Sancerre
Not only is this pasta dish (whose name translates from the Italian word for “spring”) full of seasonal vegetables, it also often has herbs and maybe even a squirt of lemon juice or sprinkle of zest and occasionally even includes chicken and garlic. It needs a chilled bottle of white wine with vibrant acidity and a herbal citrus-driven profile. To put it simply, it’s dying for sauvignon blanc. Bottles from warmer climates such as California and Chile will generally be marked by riper tropical notes; those from New Zealand often show unabashedly assertive zesty lime and grapefruit, and the trademarks of expressions from France’s Loire Valley are minerality and gooseberry. “Sancerres from the Loire Valley have such rich textures with a hint of flint and smoky flavors on the palate that play very well with the assortment of various vegetables in pasta primavera,” says Lawrence. “As always, fresh and crisp acidity plays a huge role in balancing out this dish.”
Recommended bottle: Domaine Bailley-Reverdy Chavignol ($27), produced with sauvignon blanc grapes grown on steep slopes in limestone and chalky soils. “This wine has freshly picked bouquets of citrus notes with flavors of fresh lemon grass and crisp minerality, presenting a delicate but well-balanced wine that would go great with pasta primavera,” says Lawrence.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Roasted Chicken: Chardonnay
Baked in the oven atop crispy rosemary potatoes that soak up pan juices, perched tripod style over an open can of beer on the grill, or given a sauna of sorts in the air fryer, rendering irresistibly crunchy skin—no matter which treatment you give your bird, roasted chicken just screams comfort food. It’s especially good roasted with lemon and herbs. One of the best bottles to uncork after you carve it is a chardonnay aged either in stainless steel or with moderate oak treatment. Amy Racine, the beverage director for JF Restaurants in New York City, favors unoaked chardonnays from California’s Central Coast, which allow the citrus and apple notes in the wine to complement and not overshadow the poultry.
Recommended bottle: 2017 Foxglove chardonnay ($18), a 100% stainless-steel-fermented chardonnay made with grapes sourced mostly from Santa Barbara County. “We poured this at The Terrace at The Edition Times Square hotel and made so many people happy, because it’s right between a Burgundian and light California chardonnay in style,” she says. “[It has] a creamy and slightly nutty texture, perfect with roast chicken because of its slightly lemony flavor and touch of almond notes.”
Sandwich on Sourdough: Chianti
These days, it seems as though everybody is raising their own sourdough starter, but don’t feel guilty if you go the easier route and purchase a loaf from the grocery store or local bakery. The tangy bread makes a mean sandwich, especially this stuffed Italian sourdough boule filled with salume, provolone and a host of Italian flavors. A lighter-style red with low-to-medium tannins and good acidity to match that of the sourdough is what you’ll crave. Chris Tauber, a consulting food and beverage director for an upcoming restaurant group, recommends serving a Tuscan Chianti or other sangiovese-based wine with the salume found in an Italian sub or on a charcuterie board, which will have just enough grip without being overly tannic. You may wish to chill it slightly before serving.
Recommended bottle: 2016 Fattoria di Petroio Chianti Classico ($25), a red blend made in Chianti’s best subappellation. “It has a balanced tannic and acid structure, with notes of pomegranate, plum and subtle earth tones,” says Tauber. “I recommend you open it and let it breathe for 30 minutes prior to enjoying.”
Tuna Noodle Casserole: Rosé
With just a few pantry staples, you can make tuna noodle casserole, a simple yet protein-packed one-dish meal. Chunky light or albacore white tuna from either a can or pouch will do, and you can use any pasta shape you want. The casserole is also a great way to use any leftover veggies taking up space in the fridge: peas, green beans, mushrooms, celery or carrots. A fruity rosé, still or sparkling, from the South of France or otherwise, makes a perfect accompaniment. “The sweet red fruits of a rosé tend to match up quite well with the power of the savory flavors of a tuna casserole dish,” says Lawrence. “Off-dry rosés will have no problem holding their ground while still allowing the casserole to be the highlight of the show.”
Recommended bottle: 2018 Château Gassier 'Esprit Gassier rosé ($20), a blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and rolle from Côtes de Provence. “This wine is very approachable and has a freshness that will lead you to a smile,” says Lawrence. “Aromas of almond and red currant sway into flavors of peach and subtle spice for a long-lasting finish.”