Pasta is the ultimate comfort food for so many of us, and there’s no better way to elevate an already wonderful food experience than with a glass of wine.
The thing with pasta is that it’s so versatile. There are so many different pasta dishes to choose from, and the sauce as well as the meat, fish or vegetables in the recipe will dictate which wine to pair with your meal.
One pasta dish might call for a rich red wine, while another could be better suited to a fruity rosé.
If you want to enhance your pasta-based dishes with the perfect wine pairing, this is the guide for you.
We’re going to be suggesting delicious wines to pair with some of the most popular pasta dishes, from bolognese to carbonara!
Pasta Wine Pairings
Many pasta dishes are based around a tomato sauce.
Bolognese is probably the most popular example of this, but there are plenty of other tomato-based pasta dishes, ranging from a cheese and tomato pasta bake to penne in a creamy vodka sauce.
The good news is that when it comes to which wine to pair, you can follow the same rule with virtually any tomato pasta dish.
As a rule, tomato pasta recipes go best with a Silician red wine. Some of our personal favorites include Nero d’Avola and Alcamo Rosso.
The reason we recommend a Scilian red specifically is because some red wines can be very tannic.
This does not make for a great combination with the high levels of acidity in most tomato sauces, and you might encounter the same problem with white wines, which can also be very acidic.
Sicilian red wines, on the other hand, tend to be sweeter. The richness and sweetness of red wine from the island of Sicily complements the acidity of tomato sauce nicely.
Lasagne is a delicious and satisfying pasta dish that can take a while to prepare, so you should make sure you have the best possible wine to give this classic Italian dish the flavor pairing it deserves.
We know what you’re thinking – lasagne also features a tomato sauce, so surely it should also be paired with a Sicilian red? Well, you’re almost right!
The difference is that since the acidity of the tomato doesn’t come through as strongly in lasagne due to the white sauce and cheese, a slightly more acidic red wine shouldn’t be a problem.
Basically, we would recommend any red wine from Italy to pair with lasagne. Nero d’Avola, once again, is an excellent choice, but a Pinot Noir can also work very well, as can a Dolcetto or a Chianti Classico.
Moving away from tomato pasta dishes now, carbonara is another extremely popular pasta dish due to its delicious, creamy white sauce.
The wine you’ll want to pair with white sauce pasta dishes will be very different to that you would choose for tomato pasta.
The thing to bear in mind about carbonara is that it’s quite rich, so you probably won’t want to drink a rich red wine with it.
Instead, you’ll want a wine that is refreshing but still has enough tannin to complement the flavor of the parmesan.
Valpolicella is a refreshing red wine with a hint of cherry. It’s sweet and palate-cleansing enough to offset the richness of the carbonara sauce, but because it’s a red wine, it contains tannins, so you’ll really get the most out of the flavor of the parmesan.
Pesto pasta is a quick and easy pasta dish to make for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to complement it with a great wine pairing!
Pesto pasta sauce is made from walnuts, pine nuts, basil and parsley, and it traditionally also contains a hard cheese to give it that tangy flavor.
Pesto is so flavorful that finding a wine that matches well flavor-wise without overpowering your palate can be challenging.
Overall, we feel that the best wine to pair with pesto pasta is a herbaceous white such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Friuli Sauvignon Blanc is a personal favorite of ours, but we also think that pesto sauce works well with a variety of white wines.
Therefore, if Sauvignon Blanc isn’t your favorite wine, you might want to try a Vermentino, which is like a cross between Suavignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
Another alternative is Picpoul de Pinet, which is a French white wine with a very dry yet refreshing feel.
You might think of macaroni cheese as an easy comfort meal, but with the right wine pairing, you can elevate this classic pasta dish to another level.
Macaroni cheese is rich, creamy, and filling. Therefore, you don’t want to pair it with an especially tannic or heavy red wine since this probably wouldn’t leave you feeling great after your meal.
Instead, you still want a red wine to complement the cheese, but it needs to be something lighter and fruitier than your average red.
For this reason, we always recommend a Chilean Pinot Noir to go with macaroni cheese.
Pinot Noir from this region tends to have a good balance of fruity sweetness and spice, and it’s light-bodied, so your stomach will definitely appreciate this pairing more than the same dish with a heavier red wine.
Primavera pasta, also known as vegetable pasta, can seem like one of the more complicated pasta dishes to pair with a good wine.
That’s because many wine connoisseurs know which wines pair well with different meats, but vegetables tend to be more of a mystery.
However, the rule for pairing wine with primavera pasta is actually very easy to remember. You just want to choose something fresh and light-bodied, ideally with some citrus notes as well as a hint of floral flavor.
A Sauvignon Blanc can work really well for this purpose, as can a Vermentino. We might also recommend a Grecanico or a Gros Manseng.
Seafood pasta dishes can be tricky when it comes to wine pairings because there’s so much variety in this category.
Some seafood pasta recipes are based around a creamy white sauce, whereas others have a tomato sauce. Then you also have to consider the type of seafood in the dish.
If you’re looking at a creamy seafood pasta dish with no tomato, then you will be safe with a middle-weight wine.
As long as the sauce is not acidic, an acidic white wine is absolutely fine and can even complement the flavor of the shrimp, clams, or anchovies in the recipe.
Pinot Grigio is a popular wine pairing for seafood pasta with a white sauce, as is Verdicchio or Picpoul de Pinet. A Muscadet can also work extremely well with this kind of pasta dish.
‘But what if the seafood pasta has a tomato sauce?’ we hear you ask. Well, in that case, you may want to refer back to our section about tomato pasta dishes.
A red wine can still complement seafood really well, but you just need to make sure it’s not overly acidic, so in this case, we would once again recommend a sweeter Sicilian red.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Alcohol Goes Best With Pasta?
This wine pairing guide for pasta dishes isn’t just for wine enthusiasts.
Whether wine is your favorite alcoholic beverage or you’re usually more of a whiskey drinker, the bottom line is that wine is usually the beverage of choice for pasta, especially in Italy, where most pasta dishes hail from.
If you really don’t like wine, you can also opt for gin, ale, or beer depending on the flavors in the dish.
Ale or a margarita cocktail goes well with pesto, whereas a juniper-flavored gin or an IPA could work with tomato-based pasta recipes.
Does Prosecco Pair With Pasta?
We didn’t mention any sparkling wines in our official pairing guide, but if you’re in a celebratory mood, you could pair prosecco with sundried tomato pesto or a spicy tomato pasta dish.
Does Malbec Pair Well With Pasta?
If you love Malbec and are looking for an opportunity to drink this rich red wine with pasta, your best recipe options are meaty tomato-based dishes such as bolognese.
A tomato-based sausage pasta is also a great dish to pair with a Malbec. Alternatively, you could also pair a Cabernet Sauvignon with these dishes, but the acid-on-acid might be too much for some people.
If you weren’t sure which wines to pair with different pasta dishes before, you should now be fully prepared when it’s time to order at your favorite Italian restaurant.
Remember, when you’re ordering an acidic, tomato-based pasta dish, it’s best to stick to sweeter red wines. For creamy white sauces, light-bodied and refreshing white wines are your best option.
White wines are also the best choice for pesto and primavera pasta as well as most seafood pasta recipes, with the exception of those that feature tomato sauce, in which case, Sicilian red wines are usually the better choice.
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