Best Wine Pairings for Classic Pasta Recipes

Beer and Wine, Drinks, Entertaining, Featured Article, How-To
on August 26, 2015
Honest Cooking
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Pasta can be an essentially neutral base for a meal, with all its appealing multitude of flavors derived from the sauces that are used with it. Rich red meat sauces, smooth creamy sauces, as well as the basic garlic and oil options, are used with tasty additions such as broiled fish, steamed vegetables and grilled chicken. We love pasta in equal measures on a busy weeknight and at a dressed-up dinner party. Try these tips for an ideal wine pairing for your favorite pasta dishes.

The Wine Challenge

Because of this unique adaptability, pasta is a popular dining option, but this is also why it is notoriously tricky to pair a pasta dish with an ideal, complementary glass of wine. Essentially, the wine you choose—sweet or dry, white or red—will be determined by the flavors you mix in with your plate of rigatoni, penne or spaghetti.

Reflecting the Sauce

The days of simply opting for a bottle of Chianti to go with any pasta dish are long gone. As pasta tends to be of a chewy and dense in nature, we would recommend a wine of a silky texture, but the sauce will also dictate its own requirements for complementing a rich mouthful. A tomato-based sauce, for example, will usually require an acidic red wine, but at the same time heavy tannins should be avoided. Alternatively, a good white is usually preferable for a casserole layered with white sauce, but one in which the various flavors reflect those that have been used in the sauce. Here are a few suggestions:

Seafood and Cream Pasta

Scallops and shrimps combined with béchamel demand a wine that is not only rich but also delicate. A robust Pinot gris would fit the bill perfectly, in which the hints of pear, apple and stone fruit do not just have a great affinity for shellfish but are brightened by mineral and citrus flavors.

Best Wine Pairings for Creamy Seafood Pasta

Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

Pastitsio

This pasta dish, complicated by the unusual combination of white sauce and tomato sauce, represents something of a challenge when choosing a suitable wine. Try a full-bodied Tempranillo as it’s made from a black grape and dark fruits to complement the tomato-laden beef of the dish and also works well with the creamier elements in the sauce.

Chicken Tetrrazini

This creamy pasta dish positively begs for a classic Californian Chardonnay accompaniment. The grape from which this wine is derived has the rich texture that perfectly complements the pasta, and the hints of melon, pear and apple that are characteristic of West Coast Chardonnays go especially well with chicken dishes.

The Perfect Dinner Party Dish

Fortunately, hosts don’t have to be trained wine stewards to throw the perfect pasta dinner party and impress friends with their exquisite taste and fine choice of complementary wines. The flavor adaptability of pasta makes it the perfect dish for a crowd, and there has never been a wider range of wine options on the market to find a suitable match. Any pasta lover with a plate of rich, steaming rigatoni in front of them and a wine glass charged with a carefully selected vintage will be in seventh heaven.

This article from Honest Cooking was reprinted with permission. It originally appeared as How to Pair the Perfect Wine with Pasta.