Are you wondering how to choose the best wine with pasta? This ultimate guide will turn you into a pasta and wine pairing pro faster than you can say “Salute!”
We all know that pasta is the ultimate comfort food. And what better way to enhance the flavors of this Italian cuisine than with a glass of vino? It’s like adding a sprinkle of magic to your already mouthwatering meal.
Whether you’re a spaghetti slurper, a lasagna lover, or an Alfredo aficionado, I’m here to help.
So, grab a fork, pop that cork, and join me as we uncover the secrets of finding the perfect wine to elevate your pasta masterpiece.
BTW, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my free Wine Tasting Planner. It has 20+ wine night theme ideas, including the exact ones I’ve used for my wine tastings. Plus, a timeline, food pairings, games, free printables, worksheets, and more. Get your copy here.
What’s the Best Wine with Pasta?
Wondering whether to have white or red wine with pasta? Here’s the scoop: the right wine all depends on the pasta dish you’re diving into.
If you’re twirling spaghetti with a tomato-based or hearty meat sauce, red wine is the way to go. A high-acid red will balance the acidity in a red sauce. And a bold red with stronger tannins will work best with the fat content in all that meatiness.
If you’re slurping on linguine in a delicate white sauce or feasting on seafood pasta, white wine is the best choice. Its crisp acidity and refreshing notes will play nicely with those lighter flavors.
And you certainly don’t have to go with an Italian wine. But with so many great options to choose from, it’s hard not to!
Best Wine for Tomato-Based Sauces
When you’re digging into a plate of saucy tomato goodness, you need a wine that can hold its own. What’s the secret ingredient? High acidity! It’s the perfect balancing act for the acid in tomato-based pasta dishes.
For meatless red sauces, medium-bodied red wines are the real MVPs here. Take a sip of Primitivo (aka Zinfandel), and you’ll be singing “That’s amore!”
Barbera is also a fantastic option with its high acidity and fruit-forward flavor profile.
If you’re adding meat to your marinara sauce, you’ve got more fat to play with. So, you can go for higher tannin red wines like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, or Aglianico.
Creamy Pasta Wine Pairing
Cream-based sauces need a wine that can complement the richness of the sauce without overpowering it. For white wines, opt for fuller-bodied options. They have the right amount of weight and flavor to match creamy sauces.
An oaked Chardonnay is a great choice with a cream-based pasta sauce. If you want one from Italy, this style is common in the Piedmont region. Or a fuller-style Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley or South Africa’s Paarl region makes a good match.
If you prefer red wines, go for lighter ones like Barbera from Piedmont or Gamay from Beaujolais. These reds offer a nice balance to the cream sauce without overwhelming the palate.
Best Wine for Cheese-Based Sauces
When it comes to pairing wine with cheesy pasta dishes, you’ve got a lot of options. Because let’s be honest, what goes together better than wine and cheese?
For those mouthwatering hard cheese pasta dishes, like Spaghetti Carbonara, Fettucine Alfredo, or Cacio e Pepe, go for high-acid, dry white wines. Lazio’s Frascati or Veneto’s Soave are excellent choices that will help cleanse your palate between cheesy bites.
Or if you’re in a red wine mood, opt for something light and floral like Pinot Nero with its rose aromas or a fruity Barbera d’Alba.
If your pasta dish boasts a softer cheese like ricotta, reach for a full-bodied white wine with a touch of oak (like Chardonnay). The creaminess of the wine harmonizes perfectly with the creamy cheese. It’s a delicious combination that will leave you craving more!
Pesto Pasta Wine Pairing
When pairing wine with pesto sauce, think “green” flavors that complement the fresh herbal notes.
For white wines, go for an herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc or a minerally Vermentino. They’ll match perfectly with seafood and vegetarian pesto pasta dishes.
If you prefer reds, stick to lighter options like Cabernet Franc with its green bell pepper qualities. And for sun-dried tomato pesto, Sangiovese’s dried herb notes make a great match.
Remember, balance is key. So, avoid heavily oaked whites like Chardonnay or high-tannin reds like Cabernet Sauvignon that can overpower the delicate flavors of the pesto.
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Best Wine with Meat Sauce Pasta
For meat-based pasta sauces like Bolognese or meaty lasagnas, go for full-bodied red wines with a high tannin content and good acidity. The fat in the ground beef will balance out the tannins, and the acidity will hold up to the sauce.
For a classic pick, Chianti Classico is a no-brainer. The combination of Sangiovese’s acidity and tannins with the richness of the dish is pure bliss.
Or if you’re feeling fancy, go for a Brunello di Montalcino. Made from 100% Sangiovese in Southern Tuscany, it’s intense and full-bodied.
And a Nebbiolo-based wine like Barolo or an Aglianico are other great Italian wine options with plenty of tannins to hold up to a meaty sauce.
Not into red wine? No worries! Verdicchio, a dry and crisp white wine, can still be a great match, especially if your Bolognese sauce is made with white wine.
Seafood Pasta Wine Pairing
For seafood pasta like shrimp scampi or spaghetti alle vongole, a dry, high-acid white wine with citrus notes works best. It won’t overpower the delicate seafood flavors, but it can balance any buttery richness or strong garlic flavors.
The zesty Italian style of Pinot Grigio complements seafood pasta with non-bitter veggies like zucchini noodles. Sauvignon Blanc’s herbaceous notes make it a great option if you’re serving a leafy salad on the side.
Verdicchio, a white wine from Italy’s Marche region, slices through any fattiness and pairs beautifully with seafood.
Or you could go pink with a light Rosato (Italian for rosé). These wines are known as Chiaretto in the Veneto region and have great minerality and red berry-citrus notes. Learn more about styles of rosé wine.
Vegetarian Pasta Wine Pairing
If your pasta is bursting with vibrant green veggies like broccoli or zucchini, it’s time to grab a light-bodied white wine with zesty citrus notes. With their minerality and lemon flavors, Greco di Tufo or Trebbiano are excellent pairings.
For roasted veggies, you need a wine that can handle the bolder flavors. Primitivo (Zinfandel’s close cousin) has the fruit flavors and spicy notes that will provide just the right complement to this style of pasta dish.
And let’s not forget about mushroom pasta. For dishes where these meaty veggies take the spotlight, opt for a light-bodied and earthy wine like Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir).
Best Wine with Spicy Pasta Sauces
When it comes to pairing wine with spicy pasta sauces like arrabbiata, you’ll want to consider the heat factor. Higher-alcohol wines can intensify the burn of a sauce with spicy flavor. And ones with loads of tannins will taste bitter.
For a winning combination, opt for an off-dry white wine or a lighter, low-tannin red wine.
Why not get a little adventurous and pop open a bottle of sparkling wine? A Moscato d’Asti from Italy’s Piedmont region fits the bill perfectly with its low alcohol, touch of sweetness, and delightful fizz. Or an off-dry Prosecco from the Veneto region would be a magical match.
If you prefer red wine, try Valpolicella, which also hails from Italy’s Veneto region. Its red fruit flavors and lower tannins make it a complementary companion to your spicy pasta dishes. Look for ones labeled “Classico.”
Looking for more pasta pairings? Check out my guide on lasagna wine pairings.
What’s your favorite pasta and wine pairing?
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