Pasta wine pairing

Published April 1st, 2022 - Updated March 24th, 2023

Pasta and wine, as everyone knows, are basic elements of the Mediterranean diet and can never be missing on the tables of any Italian.

But choosing the best wine for Italian food is not always easy, and, in this case, you must consider that thanks to its incredible versatility, pasta can be prepared in an infinite variety of dishes. And, despite coming in many different shapes, what really matters in terms of wine pairing with pasta, is the sauce!

The general rule of thumb suggests the choice of medium-bodied red wine for tomato-based pasta, full-bodied white wine or light-bodied red wine for cheese pasta, and light-bodied white wine for seafood pasta dishes.

But with this guide we want to go a bit further and discuss the specific pairings between some of the most popular pasta recipes and their respective best wine pairings.

Here are our suggestions for the best pasta wine pairing for the main types of dressings.

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Tomato based pasta

If the pasta sauce is tomato based, the wine must be equally fragrant and soft, not too acidic so as not to exceed and clash with the acidity of the tomato. If the sauce accompanies meat or vegetables, things might change a bit.

A meat sauce will clearly require a little more structure and body from a wine companion, such as those found in a Nebbiolo or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. But a vegetarian recipe will need something lighter and more fruity like a Dolcetto, or a Barbera, or a Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

Best wine with Pasta al pomodoro: Primitivo

Pasta with tomatoes is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet; a very simple dish, but extremely tasty. The acidity of the tomato can make pairing with wine a bit difficult. Our suggestion is a young Primitivo del Salento in Puglia, which has the perfect soft fruitiness and gentle acidity.

Our suggestion: Salento Primitivo IGP "Elfo", Apollonio

Best wine with Pasta al Ragu: Nebbiolo

Ragù is a delicious slow-cooked sauce traditionally prepared with mixed minced meat of veal, beef and pork. The combination with the full and generous taste of this sauce requires a full-bodied red wine that can resist the richness of the sauce and clean the palate, like a young Nebbiolo d'Alba.

Our suggestion: Nebbiolo d'Alba "I Lioni" DOC, Deltetto

Cheese based pasta

Pairing wine and pasta with a cheese sauce depends above all on the type of cheese used.

For example, in the case of blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort, then the combination with a crunchy and aromatic white wine, such as Gewurztraminer, Moscato Bianco or Malvasia, could be the winning one, while a red wine could overshadow the dish.

If, the recipe involves medium-aged or aged cheeses such as Fontina, Montasio, or even a Pecorino, then a red, young, lively and not too structured like a Schiava from Trentino, a young Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or a Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, can be a surprising match.

Best wine for pasta Carbonara: Frascati Superiore

Spaghetti carbonara is characterized by a succulent mixture of flavors: there is the fatness of the bacon, the sweet tendency of pasta and egg, and the slightly pungent touch of pecorino, as well as the vivid spiciness of black pepper. The best combination is a local wine, like the white Frascati Superiore, which has the right freshness and flavor, a good structure and a long persistence to enhance the flavor of the dish, and a delicate but firm acidity to lighten its pleasant fatness.

Our suggestion: Frascati Superiore Riserva Luna Mater, Fontana Candida

Carbonara is soooo good that we decided to dedicate a whole article to it!

Best wine with Cacio e pepe: Malvasia

When it comes to cacio e pepe pasta, simplicity is the keyword.

The original recipe is attributed to the Roman tradition and involves the use of only 3 basic ingredients. You can use spaghetti, tonnarelli, bucatini, pici, or macaroni. You need some Pecorino Romano, freshly ground pepper, and good moves for a memorable result.

And what about the wine? Well, you can drink red or white wine with pasta cacio e pepe, but the spicy sensations of the dish require an equally pungent wine, but also soft and persistent. If you choose white, pick a Malvasia. Its richness and creaminess can resist the cheese and counterbalance the spiciness. If you are looking for a red, choose a Merlot.

Our suggestion: Roma Malvasia Puntinata DOC, Principe Pallavicini

Seafood based pasta

Pasta based on seafood such as classic spaghetti with clams is made up of simple ingredients but with contrasting flavors: there is the sweetness of the pasta, the savory flavor of seafood, and the aromatic notes of parsley, garlic, and chilli pepper that always accompany this type of dish.

The best white wine for pasta with seafood will have a medium structure and rather intense aromas to perfectly harmonize the mix of flavors. Our suggestions are the Falanghina from Campania with its lively freshness, the Verdicchio di Matelica with its aromatic notes reminiscent of the Mediterranean scrub, or the Vermentino di Gallura with its fruity scent and savory finish.

Best wine with Linguine allo scoglio: Falanghina

This tasty first course, prepared in white or with tomatoes, represents an authentic triumph of sea flavors and a classic of the cuisine of the Italian coasts. The main feature is its sea flavor and its sapidity. To support and enhance this peculiar taste, you will need a wine capable of expressing delicate and persistent sensations, without being overwhelmed.

If the pasta is prepared in white, the wine must also be white, soft, and moderately alcoholic, like a Falanghina, or Vermentino di Sardegna.

If the dish also contains fresh tomatoes, you can opt for a rosé, such as a Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo or a Bardolino.

Our suggestion: Campania Falanghina IGT “Caulino”, Michele Alois

Best wine with Pasta alle vongole: Vermentino di Gallura

Spaghetti with clams is a typical dish of Neapolitan origin. It is rich in flavors and aromas, starting with the sapidity of the clams and the exuberant notes of garlic and parsley.

Given the flavor of the clams, the ideal wine with pasta alle vongole will have a good structure, lively crispiness, and a remarkable bouquet of salty or mineral notes. A white from volcanic areas such as Greco di Tufo is a good wine for pasta alle vongole, but the best pairing is probably with Vermentino di Gallura, whose flavor and softness will ensure a succulent match.

Our suggestion: Vermentino di Sardegna DOC "Cala Silente", Cantina Santadi

Pesto based pasta

Basil pesto is a classic of Ligurian gastronomy, made with many typical Mediterranean ingredients: parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, basil, and olive oil.

To create a unique combination, the intense aromatic profile of the basil and the succulent fatness of the cheese must be taken into account. Surely the best choice is a young white, rich in aromas (possibly herbaceous), savory, fresh, and medium-bodied such as Ligurian Vermentino, a Friulian Sauvignon, or a Muller Thurgau from Trentino.

Best wine with Trofie al pesto: Vermentino

If in doubt about wine pairings, the first option to consider is a regional match. For example, in the case of trofie al pesto (the typical pasta shape of the Ligurian area) a Vermentino Ligure, of one of the local denominations such as the Golfo del Tigullio with its delicate herbaceous notes and its warm, savory, and fresh palate is an excellent choice.

Our suggestion: Colline di Levanto Vermentino DOC "Luccicante", Cà du Ferrà

Spicy Pasta

Pairing wine with spicy foods is always risky and for this reason, it is essential to evaluate each specific recipe. In general, there is a tendency to use the rule of contrast, choosing those wines that can harmonize, by contrasting, the most marked characteristic in the food.

Wines can be both white and red (depending on the other ingredients), but it's important they have some sweetness that helps soften the spiciness and good alcohol content (alcohol is a solvent for capsaicin in chili).

White wines such as Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, or Friulano, or red wines such as Syrah, Sangiovese, or Merlot, can be exceptional companions for a dish with a spicy kick!

Best wine with bucatini all'amatriciana: Chateauneuf du Pape

Bucatini, tomato, pancetta, Pecorino, some pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a splash of white wine: these few ingredients will create one of the tastiest Italian recipes.

The wine to be paired must have hints of ripe fruit, light spicy notes, and good acidity to round out the spiciness and cleanse the palate from the greasiness. Like a red from the Rhone Valley, a Valpolicella Ripasso, or a Ribera del Duero.

Our suggestion: Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge "Galets Blonds", Patrick Lesec

Best wine with aglio, olio e peperoncino: Pignoletto

Originally from Naples, pasta aglio olio e peperoncino is a poor dish, prepared with a few very cheap ingredients, and regarded as a classic midnight snack among Italians.

It is an easy recipe but its taste is unbeatable. The spicy flavor of chili, the richness of the extra virgin olive oil, and the pungent scent of garlic make it truly delicious. A good wine with pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino must be light and fresh, aromatic and soft, like a sparkling Pignoletto.

Our suggestion: Pignoletto di Modena DOC Spumante Brut "Moden Blanc", Cleto Chiarli