What is Marsala wine? Can you use a substitute for Marsala wine if a recipe specifically calls for this particular wine?
Marsala wine is produced on Sicily by using various varieties of grapes such as the Inaolia, Catarratto and Grillo grapes among others. It also comes in three grades that are classified according to color and sweetness, they are: Oro which is a light gold color, Amber, a darker sweeter blend and Rubino the true red variety. Marsala wine is a very sweet wine and often used in Italian cooking with many dishes using it in their names, such as the worlds famous Chicken Marsala that is served at Italian restaurants around the world. It is also often served as an aperitf before dinner.
If you do not use alcohol of any type or are against using wine in cooking you can omit it from certain recipes without to much trouble. For example, in Tiramisu you can completely omit the wine and follow one of many nonalcoholic recipes available that are still delicious.
It is a different story if you are considering using a substitute for Marsala, for example in Chicken Marsala, then it would be best to use a very sweet wine, a port or a sherry. Though this will, at times drastically alter the flavor of the recipe and it would then be best called chicken and wine instead of chicken Marsala.
All in all, there really is no substitute for Marsala wine in some recipes. This wine is often used as a base flavor for sauces. It has a very distinct flavor when it is reduced. It offers a flavor that is often key and the entire foundation of a dish.
It is good to note wine has been reported to have antioxidant properties and a reasonable amount in a moderate diet has been reported as healthy. Also, for those that do not wish to partake in alcoholic beverages, all the alcoholic properties and content of the wine cooks off during the cooking process and leaves only the essence of flavor behind. Marsala wine is also very easy to obtain and is usually available at most liquor purveyors. It is typically located by the ports and the sherry. It is reasonably priced and is a great addition to any kitchen pantry and once used, sure to become a stable in many of your favorite recipes.
Ultimately the decision is yours, substitute Marsala wine or not? Alcohol or none? Change can often be a good thing, but sometimes it is best to follow the recipe and use the list of ingredients recommend for the best results. Like the old saying goes "if it is not broke, do not fix it."