"A meal without wine is like a day without sun"
There's nothing quite like a hearty bowl of pasta perfectly paired with a refreshing glass of wine. But, with all the different types of pasta dishes Italy has to offer, picking the right wine can be a little tricky. The key to pairing your pasta with wine, is to look at the sauce and find a wine that either perfectly compliments the sauce base, or brings enough contrasting flavor to balance the dish, without upsetting with your tastebuds. Not everyone is a master sommelier, so to help make things easy we've broken down some of our favorite pasta sauce bases and paired them with some tasty wine options. We've even included some of our own recipes to help you get inspired to start pairing your wines!
Tomato Based Sauces
Tomato-based sauces are rich, tangy, and high in acid. This ultimately means to avoid clashing flavors or even worse—muddling them you’ll need a bold wine that supports the richness of your Italian dish, while bringing it’s own complimentary flavors to the table. A tomato-based sauce is perfectly paired with a medium-bodied red win, that has a lot of tannins.
- Rhône Blends
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Italian Chianti
Spaghetti & Meatballs with Sangiovese, Italian Chianti, or Cabernet Sauvignon
Baked Ziti Bolognese with Sangiovese, Merlot, or Zinfandel
Spinach and Three Cheese Stuffed Manicotti with Sangiovese, Rhone Blends, or Cabernet Sauvignon
Cream or Cheese Based Sauces
Most wines do pretty well with cream or cheese-based sauces. With that said, you should absolutely take the opportunity to play around with wine and explore flavor pairings freely. Want to try a white wine? An oak-aged Chardonnay will compliment a creamy sauce. Looking for a little more contrast? Try a lighter, floral red. With a cream or cheese based sauce, the options are essentially endless!
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Grigio
Cheesy Bacon & Leek Pasta Bake with Chablis, Champagne, or Chardonnay
Spaghetti Carbonara with Pinot Grigio, Chablis, or Pinot Noir
Classic Italian Risotto with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Riesling
To balance the richness of seafood based pasta, bring a light bitterness to your palate. Middle-weight white wines pair best with most seafood based pastas unless the it contains tomatoes, then you’ll want to consider an Italian Rose.
- Pinot Gris
- Italian Rose
Creamy Seafood Linguine with Italian Rose, Pinot Gris, or Chardonnay
Pesto + Vegetable Pasta
While most of us are familiar with the “classic” pine nut and basil pesto, you can really make pesto with whatever greens and nut pairing you desire: basil-walnut, parsley-pistachio, peanut-cilantro, hazelnut-mint… you get the idea. The Wine Folly explains, that the real trick to matching these different pestos with wine is by simply acknowledging the green is the centerpiece of the dish. As soon as you do, whatever wine you choose (be it red, white or bubbly) should in some way be a harmonious, congruent pairing with the green. For the most part, you’ll find that herbaceous wines (like Sauvignon Blanc) are best suited.
Friuli Sauvignon Blanc
Greco di Tufo
Light-bodied white wines with lemony, herbal, or floral notes are a great choice as are savory, fuller bodied whites if you’re cooking with heartier, vegetables. If you add tomatoes to your pasta, it will also change your pairings – see the top tomato-based wine section.
Pasta Primavera with Fresh Spring Veggies with Sparkling Rose, Pinot Grigio, or Soave