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Wine Pairings for Pasta

From cannelloni to fettuccine alfredo, this guide has a pasta wine pairing for your most mouthwatering Italian fare.

Wine Pairings for Pasta
Wine Pairings for Pasta

Imagine being served a steaming plate of rich pasta smothered in your favorite sauce, from tangy marinara to creamy alfredo. It couldn’t possibly get more heavenly than that, right? Add a glass of wine, crafted to highlight the key flavors of your ideal pasta dish, and there’s no denying you’re in paradise!

However, selecting the perfect bottle to complement your Italian cuisine may seem like an impossible task. With such a delectable diversity of dishes to choose from and an even more savory selection of wines, how can you be sure what wine pairs with pasta?

Worry no more with this sommelier-approved guide to pasta wine pairings! In it, you’ll discover what kinds of wines work for each type of pasta sauce, like red, white, seafood, cheese, and more. You won’t only know the general guidelines for irresistible wine pairings, though. You’ll also find dish-by-dish recommendations that would have food critics licking their lips.

Whether you’re cooking penne in a bolognese sauce or fettuccini alfredo, every pasta you make will have people begging for seconds when paired with the right wine.

Red Sauce

Acidic, bright, tangy, and tart, red sauces are a go-to for any pasta lover. Who can resist the tomato-fresh taste of a hearty marinara or spicy Amatriciana? All that’s missing from this striking saucy masterpiece is an equally red glass of wine! When you’re cooking up a tart red pasta sauce on the stove, what you need to bring out its flavors is a medium-bodied red wine. Red wines are full, rich, and powerful, and they can match the sharp clarity of your sauce. As you add richer flavors to your pasta, like meat, cream, and thickset mushrooms, increase the body of your wine.

  1. Zinfandel & Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Ricotta Cannelloni

    Complex, medium-bodied, and low-acidity, Zinfandel is the ideal wine for a bold red sauce. That’s why we recommend pairing this rich wine with an equally rich pasta dish. The berry overtones of the Zinfandel will bring out the tanginess of the tomato sauce and the creaminess of the ricotta, and its spicy finish will complement the hearty, peppery taste of Italian sausage.

  2. Cabernet Sauvignon & Pasta Bolognese

    To hold its own against such a rich, meaty, and savory dish as pasta bolognese, you need a wine that has a powerful taste and a long finish. Enter: Cabernet Sauvignon. This full-bodied red is the world’s most popular wine, known for its high acidity, high-tannin boldness. This strong flavor will match the richness of the salty pancetta, ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork of this red sauce.

  3. Merlot & Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Why mess with a classic? For your go-to spaghetti and meatball recipe, you need a bottle of one of the most popular wines in the world. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is fruity and spicy, and it has fewer bitter tannins. Notes of plump black cherry will interact scrumptiously with the tomato sauce while its peppery finish will make every bite of meatball vivid and deep.

White Sauce

If you go head over heels over the comforting, rich, and velvety taste of white pasta sauces, then you need the perfect wine pairing to balance out its thick flavor. Light, crisp white wines are the ideal pair for white sauces because their bright profiles can cut through the dense flavor of the sauce, bringing out nuanced notes in the dish that would otherwise be overpowered by cream.

  1. Chardonnay & Fettuccini Alfredo with Scallops

    Chardonnay, a buttery and smooth white wine, is possibly the best pair for creamy white pasta sauces. Complementing the velvety taste of heavy cream and butter, this Burgundian white wine still has a rich citrus tone that will balance cheeses like romano and parmesan and bring out the fresh seafood taste of plump scallops. This homey pasta will taste especially complex with a glass of Chardonnay to go with it.

  2. Riesling & Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta

    Sweet, light, and fruity, Riesling is the perfect wine to add flavor complexity to creamy white sauces. The citrus undertones will give your cream- and butter-based sauce a delightful tang, while its apricot and apple finish will give each bite a brightness that would otherwise be lost to the pasta. A mild zest will articulate the garlic flavor of this recipe better than any other wine.

Seafood Pasta

Since Italy is a Mediterranean country, it only makes sense that you should prepare your palate for Mediterranean flavors when you try out a pasta dish. Seafood is a staple of this coastal fare, which means you need a wine that can enhance the delicate seafood flavors without overpowering them. The perfect solution? Light- and medium-bodied white wines. These bright, light, and acidic whites won’t overpower the nuanced flavor of your favorite seafood, like clams and shrimp, and their refreshing bitterness will bring out their salty notes. If you’re cooking with a dish with a meatier seafood, like crab and lobster, you can opt for a fuller-bodied white wine.

  1. Pinot Grigio & Shrimp Pesto Fettuccine

    Pinot Grigio is an Italian white wine known for its light body and crisp fruity flavor. This clean, straightforward wine is just what this earthy and fresh pasta recipe needs. Notes of apple and pear will balance the herbal taste of basil pesto without overpowering the subtly refreshing taste of shrimp. Garlic and spinach give this light fare a scrumptious twist that balances well with the dry taste of Pinot Grigio.

  2. Chardonnay & Lobster Mac and Cheese

    Because of its full, buttery, and smooth taste, Chardonnay is a white wine that can handle the meatier, fuller taste of crab and lobster. Play to this wine’s strengths by combining all of its best-paired flavors--creamy cheese and buttery lobster--in one delectable dish. The light citrus overtones of this wine will make sure that the fresh seafood taste of lobster doesn’t get lost in this appetizing pasta recipe.

Primavera (Vegetable) and Pesto Pastas

Though pasta may seem like a heavy dish, pasta primavera and pesto sauces make carby pasta taste as light as a salad! Springy, garden-fresh vegetables, from artichokes to squash to bell peppers to broccolini, ensure that your pasta dish is as crisp as it is delectable. To match the sunny flavor of these pasta dishes, you should look for a light-bodied white wine. Acidic, bright, and clean, these wines won’t overpower your veggie spread. Instead, fine citrus and floral notes bring out the intricate balance of garden greens.

  1. Sauvignon Blanc & Chicken Pesto Pasta

    Since this light wine pairs so well with salads, it comes as no surprise that it’s equally scrumptious with an herb-based pasta. Sauvignon Blanc is tart, acidic, and zesty. This fresh, herbal energy perfectly matches the fresh basil, garlic, and pine nut taste of pesto. The light, clean taste of chicken will balance the dryness of the wine, and its citrus overtones will make even pasta taste like light fare.

  2. Chardonnay & Creamy Penne Pasta Primavera

    Because Chardonnay tastes so smooth, it makes an irresistible pair with heartier vegetables like butternut squash, carrots, truffles, and mushrooms. Its buttery taste will bring out the creaminess of the pasta sauce while a rich citrus tone will emphasize the garden-fresh taste of lemon-friendly vegetables like asparagus and juicy cherry tomatoes.

  3. Pinot Noir & Pesto Penne with Mushrooms

    Unlike most red wines, Pinot Noir is delicate, low-tannin, and light-bodied. This subtlety makes it a perfect match for delicate, earthy flavors of basil pesto. The wine’s berry undertones will bring out the tanginess of sundried tomatoes, and the hearty-yet-muted mushroom flavor will balance perfectly with the fresh finish of Pinot Noir. This light pasta will taste out of this world with an equally light red wine.

Cheese Pasta

No one can resist the ooey-gooey, tangy, and smooth taste of melted cheese, especially when it’s smothered over a hearty pasta recipe. However, with such a wide range of cheese flavors, intensities, and levels of sharpness, an equally wide range of wines can make a perfect match. In general, full-bodied white wines and light-bodied red wines pair well with cheese pasta, with lighter reds pairing best with powerful and tart hard-cheeses and heavier whites pairing better with gentler soft-cheeses.

  1. Chardonnay & Lemon Ricotta Parmesan Pasta

    The rich citrus notes of Chardonnay are just what a zesty pasta recipe like lemon ricotta parmesan pasta needs. Creamy ricotta complements the buttery, smooth feeling of this wine, and the fruity undertones of Chardonnay will bring out the sharp parmesan taste everyone loves. A shared citrus flavor means this is a match made in heaven! Add some spinach for an even lighter taste.

  2. Cabernet Sauvignon & Classic Lasagna

    No one can resist the delicious cheesy taste of mama’s homemade lasagna, and now you can add new depth to its flavor with the bold flavor match of Cabernet Sauvignon. This full-bodied, bitter red will complement the rich, meaty flavor of Italian sausage and ground beef, while its high acidity will balance with the creamy taste of any cheese mix, from ricotta to mozzarella to parmesan.


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