Flour, olive oil, egg, salt – these four easy-to-find ingredients are used to make the base for one of the most versatile dishes in the culinary world: pasta. Discover the wines that pair best with pasta
While pasta is pulled, folded, stretched and sliced into a dazzling variety of shapes and sizes, its diversity of flavor comes from the myriad of sauces, toppings or stuffing choices applied to its blank canvas. When choosing a wine to pair with any pasta dish, we recommend considering the flavors of these ingredients to determine the style that best matches them.
For example, while a medium-bodied red wine (such as a Zinfandel, Sangiovese or Grenache) may go better with a tomato-based pasta recipe, we would recommend a full-bodied white wine (like an oak-aged Chardonnay) for pasta with a creamy cheese sauce. To help you make the right wine and pasta pairing choices, we have chosen some of our favorite pasta styles and added our pairing suggestions.
Many of the most classic pasta recipes include a tomato-based sauce, often blended with red meat and herbs. In order to complement (and not overpower) the tangy acidity of the tomato, we recommend a medium-bodied red wine with fresh red fruit aromas and mild, smooth tannins. For red sauce pasta dishes like spaghetti al pomodoro, tagliatelle Bolognese or a hearty beef lasagna, choose an Italian wine from the Piedmont region, such as a Barbera d’Asti, or a Chianti from Tuscany. A Gamay-based wine from Beaujolais may also work here. When it comes to meat-based pasta dishes with more intense flavors, like a wild boar ragù or meatballs seasoned with fresh black pepper, choose a lighter Nebbiolo-based wine like a Rosso di Montalcino, the younger brother of Brunello di Montalcino.
Pasta provides the perfect blank canvas to showcase another one of cuisine’s greatest masterpieces, cheese. When choosing a wine to pair with a cheese-based pasta dish, we recommend using our Wine and Cheese Pairing guide to select the right wine styles to complement the specific kind of cheese. For example, pair pasta dishes flavored with mild soft cheeses (like mozzarella or ricotta) with a refreshing rosé wine from Cotes de Provence or a fruity Cabernet Franc from Chinon in the Loire Valley of France. Meanwhile, pasta dishes like Cacio e Pepe with hard, nutty cheeses (like Pecorino or aged Parmesan) grated on tend to go nicely with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Meanwhile, cream-based pasta dishes tend to pair nicely with wines whose acidity can help balance the richness of the sauce. For this, we recommend a sparkling wine, like a Prosecco or Cava from Spain. Or, choose to enhance the creaminess of your pasta dish with an equally creamy, smooth white wine, like an oak-aged Chardonnay from California or a Viognier from the Rhone Valley.
Perhaps one of the simplest yet most decadent pasta recipes out there is spaghetti al tartufo, topped with paper-thin slices of white or black truffle melting on. When it comes to pasta dishes featuring truffle or mushrooms, we recommend a Barolo, whose cherry, wild herb and tobacco aromas go beautifully with the earthy flavors of the fungi.
Made from the classic pine nut and basil or a myriad of other green herb and nut combinations, a small spoon of green pesto can add tremendous flavor to any pasta dish. When it comes to pesto-based pasta dishes, we recommend choosing a wine with an herbaceous touch to complement the herbs in the recipe. Some classics include Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand or Vermentino from Italy or Corsica.
Squid, clams, prawns and mussels… Some of the most classic coastal Italian pasta dishes are made with fresh seafood. Here, consider the nature of the recipe. Fresh and light seafood dishes seasoned with lemon and parsley, meant to showcase more delicate proteins, like clams, will go nicely with a crisp glass of white wine with a steely minerality. We recommend a lean Chablis from Burgundy or a Riesling from Alsace. More decadent pasta dishes like lobster or squid ink linguini will go nicely with a rose or rosé champagne. And for Sicilian-style seafood pastas with tomato, capers and shrimp or mussels, try a light-bodied red wine, like a Valpolicella Classico. Just be careful to avoid big, bold tannins.
From the spicy tomato sauce of penne a l’arrabbiata to the smoky heat of a Cajun chicken alfredo, nothing brightens up a pot of pasta like some crushed red chilis peppers. As with all spicy food, we recommend staying away from very tannic wines as tannins tend to exacerbate heat, rendering spicy dishes even spicier. Instead, we recommend a fruity red wine like a Valpolicella Superiore or a dry white wine like a Bordeaux dry white or Riesling.
Pasta is one of the most popular dishes around the world due to its diversity and accessibility. It serves as the perfect blank canvas for various sauces, toppings and stuffing options, whose flavors will dictate which wine will best pair with the recipe.
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