Everyone loves pasta, whether it is a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, pasta with pesto or a hearty lasagna, pairing wine with pasta is one the best ways to elevate your favourite Italian meals, and it’s easier than you think.
Pasta comes in many flavours and colours, as the Italian speciality can take many shapes. And although no pasta dish is created equal, they’re all comforting and satisfying. The question is, what are the best wines with pasta? Here’s all you need to know about the most successful pasta and wine pairings.
Understanding The Art of Pairing Wine With Pasta
Pasta is a starchy dish. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of types of pasta. Some of it is dry, and other is egg-based. Some types of pasta are short and others long. Then you have the crowd-pleasing stuffed pasta, like ravioli and tortellini! The pasta category is incredibly varied!
And although pasta types abound, the sauce matters most when it comes to food and wine pairings. Some pasta sauces are based on tomato, others are creamy, some are oily, and others are meaty. If you want to find the right wine for pasta, start with the sauce.
Types of Pasta and The Wines To Go Along With
The famous marinara, Bolognese, and many other tomato-based sauces are perhaps the quintessential sauces for pasta. When someone says spaghetti, you surely picture the long pasta tossed in tomato sauce.
Tomato is not a veggie but a fruit; although you can’t always tell, tomatoes are sweet and tangy! If you want to find the right wine for tomato sauce, whether served with pasta or anything else, look for a red wine with acidity to counter the tomatoes’ tartness. All wine is acidic, but some are tarter than others, and sharpness is critical for successful wine and pasta pairings.
Sangiovese is the classic Tuscan red wine grape and, for many, the best wine with pasta, but we’re starting our list with the Italian variety for its natural acidity, not its fame. Wines made with Sangiovese, like Chianti, for example, are always pleasingly tart, and it’s that tanginess that makes them compatible with tomato sauce.
Chianti Classico is a great alternative for pasta, but there are others. Wines labelled Rosso di Montalcino and Toscana IGT are ideal for a weeknight pasta dinner. Of course, some wines made with Sangiovese are bold, structured, and better suited for a steak dinner, so choose younger and less pretentious bottles.
Valpolicella, a well-known red wine made on the outskirts of Verona, with Corvina and others, is deliciously fruity and tangy. It’s hard to argue the ruby-red wine is not ideal for tomato-based sauces. Even meat pasta, like Bolognese, shine with a glass of Valpolicella Superiore.
Other Italian red wine that goes great with tomato sauces include Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cannonau di Sardegna (Grenache) and Primitivo (Zinfandel).
Pinot Noir is a French variety, although it now grows in every cold-climate region worldwide. Pinot shines for its elegance because it has elevated acidity and low tannins, the gritty particles that cause a drying sensation on the palate.
Pinot Noir’s finesse makes it compatible with tomato-based and mushroom pasta since the Burgundian grape often comes with undergrowth scents that complement mushrooms and truffles beautifully.
Creamy Pasta Sauces
Some types of pasta rely not on tomatoes but dairy. The classic fettuccine Alfredo, the Roman Carbonara and regular cream sauces are hearty and filling and make any pasta wholesome.
Of course, this type of pasta calls for its own ideal wine. In this case, full-bodied white wine. White wine can be fruity and refreshing, but it can also be rich and creamy, and it’s the latter we’re pairing with our creamy pasta.
Chardonnay produces the boldest and richest white wines in the world, especially when it undergoes the “secondary” malo-lactic fermentation and spends time in oak barrels. Oak-aged Chardonnay is creamy and luscious, making it the perfect partner for creamy pasta. Not all Chardonnay spends time in oak barrels, so read the labels carefully.
If you want an alternative, the Italian Trebbiano is often full-bodied, and so is Ribolla Gialla. Some Spanish white wines, like Rueda, are also compatible with creamy sauces. These are all excellent wine and pasta pairing alternatives.
Oily Pasta Sauces
Finally, we can’t talk about pasta without mentioning those flavoured with olive oil and a few other aromatic ingredients, like garlic and herbs. Pesto, for example, is an excellent oily pasta, and so are the famous arrabiatta, aglio olio and cacio e pepe. Seafood pasta often falls into this category as well!
These pasta dishes are best enjoyed with a crisp white wine. One with piercing acidity to cut through the oily fat while lifting the pasta’s flavours. In this case, we don’t want oak-aged white wine but young and vibrant examples.
Vermentino, Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc
Enlisting every crisp white wine on the market is impossible. After all, this is the most popular white wine style today. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling, Albariño, you name it. These citrusy and sometimes mineral wines are ideal pairings for Mediterranean food, including oily pasta, from pesto to Primavera (vegetable) pasta.
The Best Wine With Pasta? What’s For Dinner?
To be honest, there’s not really such a thing as the best wine with pasta. The food category and our beloved fermented beverage are complex and varied but that’s the beauty of it — wine and pasta pairings are all about finding what you like, and that’s what makes it fun.
What’s your favourite pasta? That’s a beautiful place to start your wine pairing knowledge. Discover wine that goes great with your favourite food and learn from your mistakes. After all, we all like different things, meaning the right wine and food pairings are different for all of us!
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