Italian Food 101: Pairing Wine with Pasta
What’s better than wine? Wine paired with a delicious plate of pasta. As an Italian family, pairing wine with pasta is in our blood. The smell of pasta and wine just brings us right back to nonna’s table!
So, we’ve created a simple guide on how you can perfectly pair your wine with your favorite pasta dishes. Knowing this will totally transform your Italian food experience, and make you a bit more of an expert on food and wine pairings too!
Pairing Wine with Pasta 101
Here is the complete guide to pairing wine with pasta. We broke it down into the most popular types of pasta dishes we all know and love.
Tomato-Based Pasta Dishes
We love tomato-based pasta for its juicy acidity that makes us excited for every bite. To keep up with this flavor, we need a red wine with as much acidity and body as our pasta dish.
If you’re enjoying pasta with a simple tomato sauce (like a marinara,) go for a medium-bodied red wine. A Dolcetto is a perfect option. Meaning ‘little sweet,’ this wine offers just enough body, acidity, and fruitiness to pair with lighter tomato-based pasta dishes. You can also go for a Sangiovese. Its earthy qualities make a great match for all kinds of tomato-based pasta dishes.
When pairing wine with pasta that is more hearty and meaty, you will need a more fuller-bodied wine. A bold Barbera does just the job and definitely adds to more authentic ‘trattoria vibes’ to your meal. It’s totally ok to go French too – Syrah is a great match for a meaty pasta dish.
Pasta Dishes with Vegetables
White wine lovers rejoice – a veggie-centric pasta is an amazing match for a crisp white wine. That’s because light-bodied, refreshing white wines won’t overpower your vegetables. Instead, their acidity enhances them, just as a squeeze of lemon would! This goes for whether you’re diving into a plate of spaghetti with zucchini or orecchiette with asparagus.
Keeping it Italian, Falanghina is always a great match for fresh vegetable pasta. It’s fresh and herbaceous, just like your veggies. A crisp Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or even a vibrant rosé are fantastic choices. These wines and their fruity flavors were made to eat with vegetable pasta, especially when there’s a bit of salty cheese in there (hello, parmigiano!)
Seafood Pasta Dishes
Wines that go with seafood pasta dishes vary on the ingredients in your dish. Of course, white wines are usually the go-to for seafood pasta. Seafood is much lighter than poultry or red meat. But, there are a couple of exceptions to that…
When it comes to summer spaghetti with clams or mussels, you can never go wrong with a light-bodied white wine, rosé, or even sparkling wine. Look for a wine that offers a nice minerality, something refreshing like the sea! A Vermentino or even Falanghina are delicious picks.
But, there are seafood pasta dishes that aren’t as light and need a more intense wine. If you’re savoring pasta with loads of shellfish, like lobster or shrimp, you can go for a white wine with a little more body. A Fiano di Avellino is a wonderful pick. For pasta with heartier fish (like monkfish or swordfish,) you need a white wine with a little more structure. A silky and fuller-bodied Chardonnay does just the trick.
Cheesy Pasta Dishes
Gosh, who doesn’t love a creamy cheesy pasta dish? Well, we love it even more when paired with just the right wine. There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to pairing wine with pasta dishes full of delicious cheese! It all comes down to the type of cheese.
The best rule of thumb is the sharper and saltier the cheese, the more acidity you need in your wine. The acidity in wine balances out the bold cheesy flavors. So, a plate of cacio e pepe or even quattro formaggi ravioli would go fantastically with a Greco di Tufo from Campania, Italy. Or, if you prefer reds, light-bodied Pinot Noir has the acidity and red fruits to compliment all the cheesy flavors.
If you’re enjoying, let’s say, baked tomato-based pasta with tons of mozzarella or feta cheese (if you haven’t missed the TikTok trend…) then you can go for a lighter unoaked white wine. Think Pinot Grigio or dry Riesling. You can even pair a lightly cheesy pasta with a bottle of bubbly Champagne, especially if truffles are involved. Talk about treating yourself!
Pesto Pasta Dishes
The greenest pasta sauce around, pesto pasta comes from the dazzling region of Liguria, Italy. As Italians say, what grows together goes together. With that said, the refreshing minerality of Vermentino is fantastic for the zesty green flavors of pesto. Sauvignon Blanc makes a fabulous pairing too. You can also pair a pesto with red wine, particularly if the pasta dish has a cream or additional tomatoes in it. A young Sangiovese or even a Rossesse (another local grape from Liguria) are great choices.
A Final Note on Pairing Wine with Pasta
With all the kinds of wines and pasta dishes, you can have a lot of fun pairing wine with pasta. It highlights just how delicious and versatile Italian food is. If you are ever looking for an Italian food pairing experience, visit us at our Osteria any time. It would be our pleasure to help you pair our family’s wines with authentic Italian dishes!