Matching wines with pasta immediately makes you think Chianti, Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio. And why not? Italian pasta simply comes to life when paired with its national soulmate, Italian wine. But we love the variety and choice of Australian and other international wines, many of them made with grape varietals that originated in Italy.
When it comes to choosing the perfect wine and pasta match, your choice in colour and weight of the wine should be guided by the flavours and ingredients in the pasta – what’s in the sauce, whether the cheese is pungent and rich or mild and sweet, whether the pasta is filled with any ingredients, and what meats are used to accompany the dishes.
We’ll look at a range of pasta dishes and give you some of our tried and trusted wine recommendations. Of course, as wine is such a subjective thing, the ultimate choices will be up to you and your personal tastes.
Pasta and tomato sauce wine matches
Let’s start with the most popular, and most common style of pasta – tomato sauce. The combination of tinned Italian tomatoes (or fresh Australian tomatoes) with complementary ingredients like basil, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese and garlic give you the perfect palette to pair with aromatic, flavoursome red wines or crisp dry whites like Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc.
The acid in tomatoes pairs well with slightly tangy wines. For reds try a cherry-scented Nebbiolo, raspberry-like Tempranillo or savoury Dolcetto. Try to avoid big, ripe reds like Barossa Shiraz or McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon as the acid in the sauce may make them taste harsh and could enhance the tannins. (Wait for the braised meat pastas for those reds!)
Pasta & Seafood Wine Matches
One of the most enjoyable, and simple, pasta dishes is spaghetti with prawns, chilli and garlic. This fresh, flavoursome combination comes alive with zesty, crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio (that old favourite again!), cool-climate Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé.
Salmon, depending on whether it’s smoked, cooked or roasted can be a lovely match with the red fruits and smoky flavours of Pinot Noir; fresher salmon with more delicate flavours is better suited to lighter-bodied wines like Rosé, or unoaked, fresh whites.
Pasta and pesto wine matches
The herbal, garlic and cheese of pesto combined with the herbal freshness of basil makes a lovely match with light-bodied, soft reds or crisp dry whites. Try Sangiovese, Barbera, Pinot Grigio or Verdelho.
Lasagne wine matches
One of winter’s staple family favourites, lasagne combines the soft texture of baked sheets of pasta with rich, hearty ragu (meat sauce) and béchamel sauce, topped with a crunchy cheesy crust – so delicious and one of Italy’s most famous pasta dishes. (A version of this dish from from the Marche region of Italy is called vincisgrassi.) Lasagne is traditionally an ideal match with flavoursome, rustic red wines. The Italian red wines Chianti or Barolo make a noble match for lasagne, as does Primitivo (also called Zinfandel), or warm-climate Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from regions like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
Pasta and cream sauce wine matches
For pasta served with rich, creamy sauces like carbonara made with prosciutto, eggs and parmesan (no cream!), a rich, buttery Chardonnay from Margaret River, Tasmania or French White Burgundy makes a perfectly complementary match. The same wine recommendations apply for pasta with boscaiola sauce.
Cream sauces with mushrooms make a great match for either rich, full-bodied white wines like Chardonnay, or fresh, vibrant reds like Aglianico, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese.
Pasta with cream sauce and seafood is delicious with light, fresh reds or fruit-filled whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco and Arneis.
Pasta is one of those meals that really loves wine, so take time to experiment a few different combinations to find you own personal favourites and enjoy the pleasures of a harmonious match of flavours.