Pasta is incredibly versatile in that it can be paired with all manner of ingredients, from different cuts of meat and seasonal vegetables to regional cheeses and a variety of sauces. The one thing that can take an already delicious pasta dish to a new level? A perfectly paired wine to enjoy it with.
Your choice of wine should be heavily influenced by the ingredients in your pasta sauce, the type of cheese you use, and whether or not any meat is included. When paired well, wine can enhance the taste of your dish, bringing out all of its different flavours. Here, we look at which types of wine drink best alongside certain classic pasta dishes.
Light to medium-bodied white wines for pesto dishes
Pesto is a versatile accompaniment to pasta, and while most people know it as a basil-based sauce, it can be made with a variety of herbs – your choice of which will also impact the kind of wine which will work best with it. If you’re making a pasta dish using green pesto, a light-bodied Chardonnay will perfectly complement the sauce’s earthy and strong garlic base, thanks to the wine’s characteristic aromas of apple, pear and citrus aromas.
What’s more, the pasta itself will also affect the pesto’s body of flavour, which should influence your choice of wine. Pasta shapes with grooves, like fusilli, hold the sauce well, while Pasta Evangelists point out that pesto is an excellent accompaniment for gnocchi recipes due to the delicate texture of the potato-based dumplings.
Medium-bodied white wines for seafood dishes
A refreshing medium-bodied white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Muscadet pairs well with the bitter taste of seafood pasta dishes. For example, this recipe for linguine with prawns, chilli and garlic comes alive with a glass of crisp, zesty white, which won’t overpower the freshness or flavour of the prawns. Pinot Grigio is also ideal for dishes with salmon, with notes of white peach, citrus, and hint of pear, while the high acidity of Muscadet also pairs well with seafood.
Medium-bodied red wines for tomato-based pasta
Tomato-based pasta dishes are strong-flavoured and often include red meat, which makes a tart, medium-bodied red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel a great choice. The wine you pair with a tomato pasta dish will need to match the acidity of the tomatoes, otherwise it will taste bland, and be overpowered by the base of the sauce. Pomodoro, arrabbiata and marinara sauces are all high in acidity, so work well with stronger reds. For a spaghetti and meatball dish, pair it with Sangoivese as it’s naturally fruity and highly tannic with cherry and violet flavours, or Barbera, which is high in acidity with berry flavours. While for a meat-based tomato sauce in a ragu dish, a bold red wine such as a Zinfandel.
Delicate, light-bodied red wines for creamy pasta dishes
For creamy pasta dishes like carbonara, opt for a light-bodied red wine like a fruity Pinot Noir, whose high acidity helps to cut through the richness of the egg, butter, olive oil, cream and cheese typically found in the sauce. You will want a refreshing wine with a noticeable tannin content, especially if you sprinkle a generous extra helping of parmesan on your carbonara. Thanks to its notes of strawberry and spice, and lighter body, a Pinot Noir is another great match with creamier meals like mac and cheese.