Pairing wine with pasta
From a quick mid-week carbonara, to marinara at your favourite local Italian restaurant, or a traditional bolognese made with love by nonna, pasta is the food on everyone’s fork. But what wine is in their glass? What wines go well with pasta? And, is red or white wine better with pasta?
Pasta is a food that fills you up with flavours and textures that bring immense gratification. And, enjoying your favourite pasta with friends, family, and the right wine takes the experience from bellissimo to perfecto.
With so many pasta and sauce combinations, the question is which wine pairs with which pasta dish? Keep reading to find out how to make your next pasta dinner delizioso.
WHAT WINES PAIR WITH TOMATO-BASED PASTA?
Traditional tomato-based pasta dishes are pure perfection paired with medium-bodied Italian-style red wines like Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Nero d’Avola, but don’t forget textural and aromatic whites like Fiano that are fabulous with lighter vegetable dishes that include sweeter flavours like pumpkin and sweet potato.
Chef Massimo Mele's pork belly and beef pasta dish with additions of pancetta, tomato, vegetables and parmesan is sure to be a crowd-pleaser! Serve it with a glass (or bottle!) of Nebbiolo for a perfect wine pairing.
Sitting between big, tannic varieties like Shiraz, and lighter Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is a great food wine that pairs well with high fat dishes that are balanced by the wine’s tannins and acidity.
Born in Milan, Silvia Colloca loves nothing more than cooking Italian pasta dishes to feed her family and friends. Featuring tomato passata, earthy chard, sharp and salty pecorino cheese, and creamy ricotta, this recipe will win the hearts of all your guests, as will a bottle of your favourite Barbera – bellissimo.
Barbera has a higher level of natural acidity and lower tannins than most Italian varieties, which coupled with its black cherry flavours, delivers wines packed with juicy black fruits and a silken texture. Its natural acidity makes it perfectly suited to any dish containing tomato.
Take this delicious duck and porcini dish up even another notch by serving a Nero d’Avola with it. Nero’s fragrant and crunchy, and light to medium-bodied, almost Pinot-like characters, make it a delectable match.
Nero d'Avola is made in two different styles. The first is fragrant and crunchy, light to medium bodied, almost like Pinot Noir. The second is dark and densely coloured with black fruits and spice and a weight more reminiscent of Shiraz. In Australia, you're more likely to come across the first style, as our Nero d'Avola vines are younger and therefore have not got to the point of producing more robust wines.
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Given that Fiano hails from Italy’s Campania region, and the island of Sicily, it makes sense that it pairs naturally with seafood – baked fish, shellfish, etc. It’s also perfect with pasta dishes, too, as the acidity in the wine offsets the richness of cream-based sauces and its textural nature complements the acidity of tomato-based recipes.
WHAT WINES PAIR WITH CREAMY OR CHEESEY PASTA?
Creamy and cheesy pasta dishes are wonderfully indulgent and downright delicious, but can be a little on the rich side. To offset the creaminess in the dishes below, we suggest white wines with good natural acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Fiano, Vermentino, and Chardonnay.
Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect pairing with goat’s cheese, so it’s a natural choice for this
flavour-packed pasta dish. With salty notes from the goat’s cheese and prosciutto shining through it needs a dry, crisp white to help keep the balance.
Sauvignon Blanc’s herbal notes and aromatic fruit flavours means it’s idea with dishes containing green vegetables, and strongly flavoured washed rind and goat’s cheese. It’s also great with crunchy salads, fresh seafood, fried food, simple risottos, and delicate Asian dishes.
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Vermentino is generally light to medium-bodied, but can also be picked a little later which creates a slightly fuller style. It’s a fresh and versatile variety with good texture, and an almost salty complexity, which makes it great rich cheese-based pastas, anything with lots of fresh herbs, or antipasto. It’s also a lovely drink by itself.
An unoaked Chardonnay is a good place to start. With its gentle notes of citrus and herbs, it complements the similar flavours of the calamari perfectly. A richer texture makes these fuller varieties a great match for cream or cheese-based pastas.
You’ll need a richer white with the risoni to stand up to the buttery, cheesy depth of this dish. A fuller-style Chardonnay or Fiano would be perfect. A Fiano like the 2016 Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Fiano 2016, which has a rich, creamy palate and a savoury nutty layer adding a delicious umami factor would be the perfect wine match.
WHAT WINES PAIR WITH VEGETABLE PASTA?
Is red or white wine better with pasta? Again, with the dishes below, the suggested wine match comes down to the vegetables and the sauces. From fresh, textural whites to light and medium-bodied reds, there’s a wine to suit every vegetable pasta.
Alesandro Pavoni's, a'Mare signature pesto pasta is an uncomplicated yet deeply flavoursome dish. A refreshing white like Pinot Grigio is an ideal accompaniment.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape, differing only in style: Italian Grigio tends to be lighter and zippier, while the French Gris is a touch richer and more textural. Both are versatile wines, able to be paired with a vast array of dishes.
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Evoking the earthy notes of northern Italian cuisine, mushroom and garlic orecchiette is an ideal match to the silken and savoury characteristics of a Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is one of the world’s great food wines. Its bright acidity, red fruit flavours, velvety tannins and earthy depth, make it an absolute go-to match is anything featuring umami-laden mushrooms!
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While the gnocchi based on sweet potato, the addition of the ricotta, parmesan, cream and butter means this is best enjoyed with a white wine that’s light on the oak with crisp acidity, making medium-weight and textural white wines like Marsanne, Pinot G, Vermentino, Arneis and Fiano mouth-watering choices.
Marsanne is very versatile when it comes to food pairing. Younger wines with their energy and freshness suit light salads, shellfish and white fish. Richer aged Marsanne suits richer foods such as roasted poultry, oily fish, creamy pasta and lightly spiced curries.
Grenache has a mid-weight silken charm that makes it a pleasure to pair with food. An ideal choice with charcuterie, tomato-based pasta and and mushroom-based meals like this open lasagne.
WHAT WINES PAIR WITH SEAFOOD PASTA?
The usual seafood and wine match ‘rules’ apply to the seafood pasta recipes we’ve included below. Fabulously fresh crab with Riesling, flavoursome prawn, tomato and saffron with Pinot Grigio, delicious vongole clams with Vermentino, and quite a rich prawn and eggplant pasta with a Pinot-like Nero d’Avola.
A Pinot Grigio is a great choice with this Alessandro Pavoni's flavoursome pasta. It's a refreshing, juicy and textural style with lovely white fruit depth, and a deliciously vibrant, fresh and long finish. A light red would also be a delight.
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Crab loves Riesling and Riesling loves crab – so there you have it. With its high levels of acidity and citrussy characters, Riesling is a perfect match with a variety of seafood dishes like this blue swimmer crab spaghettini.
Young Riesling typically shows citrus and apple fruit aromas and flavours, with varying degrees of floral and mineral characters and high levels of fresh acidity. While they drink beautifully on release, many also have good cellaring potential. Bottle age enables their acidity to soften and the development of complex toasty and honey characters.
Similar in weight to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling, and hailing from the Mediterranean, it makes perfect sense that Vermentino is a natural pairing for all types of seafood including the vongole featured in this dish. The key characters of Vermentino are stone fruit, citrus peel, dried herbs and a signature saline or sea spray character. The variety is high in acidity so the wines have a refreshing and nervy acid backbone.
With a tomato-base and the addition of shaved pecorino and mullet bottarga*, this is quite a rich dish, so is best enjoyed with a red wine that has medium tannins and higher acidity. A delectable match is Nero d’Avola – it’s fragrant and crunchy, light to medium-bodied, and has almost Pinot-like characters.
*Bottarga made from mullet roe is subtly salty, with hints of the fishiness you'd taste in caviar. It’s best known in Sardinia as a delicacy to be grated over a seafood pasta or on pizza.
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So, there you have it! Pasta and wine matching made easy. For more great food and wine combinations, be sure to check out our dedicated Food and Wine Pairing pages.