When it comes to pairing wine with pasta, the first thing to remember is that you’re going to ignore the pasta and focus on the sauce.
Think of pasta as the canvas that holds all the accompanying ingredients together. All the flavor comes from the sauce – spicy tomato-based sauces, hearty red meat sauces, indulgent cheese sauces, silky cream sauces, simple garlic and oil – plus whatever tasty addons you want like grilled chicken, seafood, or veggies, just to name a few. Pasta’s versatility is what makes it universally loved, but also makes it difficult to pair with the perfect glass of wine.
Luckily, you have someone like us that will put together a handy little pairing guide so you can always dine in good taste. What better day to make pasta than on National Pasta Day!
Creamy pasta sauces
To offset creamy sauces (carbonara or fettucine alfredo) think Soave, Bianco di Custoza, Pinot Bianco, Sicilian whites and lighter Chardonnay or Chardonnay blends.
With baby vegetables (primavera) or herbs (verdura): try a crisper Italian white wine such as Falanghina, Vermentino, Arneis or a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.
With mushroom pastas serve Soave, Bianco di Custoza, Lugana or Chardonnay, or a light Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Seafood pasta sauces
Seafood (spaghetti alle vongole, spaghetti with mussels, linguine with crab) need a crisp dry white wine such as Frascati, Verdicchio, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Muscadet or Picpoul de Pinet. A dry rosé is a great choice as well. Crab or lobster sauces can take a fuller white such as a good quality Soave or Chardonnay.
Red or tomato-based pasta sauces
Tomato-based sauces include fresh tomato with basil; crisp dry whites like Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio will pair best. For cooked tomato sauces such as napoletana or marinara we recommend Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or a light Sicilian red.
Meat (Bolognese, spaghetti with meatballs, sausage-based sauces) is a logical partner for Sicilian and Puglian reds, Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and inexpensive Barberas or even a Zinfandel.
Pesto and other cheese-based sauces
Dry whites such as Gavi, Soave or Verdicchio are best with green pesto – you could also try Sicilian whites and lighter Chardonnays). With red pesto I’d go for a medium bodied red such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese or Merlot. It’s a color thing as much as anything.
With cheese-based sauces such as four cheese and Gorgonzola you’ll want crisp dry whites such as Verdicchio, light Chardonnays or light reds such as Teroldego or Merlot.
Spicy pasta sauces
With hot spicy sauces such as arrabbiatta, aglio olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil and chili) and puttanesca (anchovies, capers and olives) try either a sharply flavored dry white wine or a rustic Italian red: a Primitivo or Sicilian red, Zinfandel or Valpolicella Ripasso.
But the main thing to keep in mind for pairing wine with any food is to drink whatever wine you enjoy drinking with whatever food you have chosen to eat.
I mean it’s already wine and food, so it’s kind of hard to get it wrong when it’s based on two delicious things!