When you think about wine pairs with pasta, probably the first image that comes to mind is big plate of spaghetti and meatballs paired with a glass of cheap Chianti, right?

Well, in this post, we’re going to go much, MUCH deeper than that. We will look at authentic regional cuisine from Italy and offer a few suggestions for the perfect wine pairing with pasta dishes from that same region.

Let’s just say from the outset that pairing pasta with wine “should” always be regional, because the wine and the food evolved side-by-side over the centuries, therefore you can never go wrong if you stick to this rule. It makes the decision-making foolproof.

But what fun is that? In the spirit of adventure, we’ll look for wines from other regions to pair with pasta dishes from all over Italy, and some from outside of Italy, too. Besides, outside of Italy, you don’t always access to the small production local vino. So in addition to being fun, it’s also a practical matter that forces us to explore and experiment a bit.

(Oh, and you know that wine has health benefits, right?)

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Best Wines for Italian Food

If you’re a foodie, then you know that one of the most important things in life is finding the perfect wine to pair with your meal. And if you’re a pasta lover, then you know that there are endless tempting possibilities when it comes to choosing the right wine for your dish. (Besides, the say that wine is good for you!)

So, what are some of the best wines to pair with pasta? We’ve got the ultimate guide for all you foodies out there. Here we go…

How to Pair Wine with Pasta

First a few general thoughts on pairing wine with your favorite pasta dish. Of course, none of these are hard and fast Italian food rules, but just a place to start.

If you are serving a tomato sauce pasta dish with rich meats or creams, pair it with a full-bodied wine like Aglianico, Nero di Troia, or Super Tuscan.

For a seafood pasta, pair it with a refreshing and slightly bitter white wine, such as a Soave from Veneto.

For a vegetarian pasta dish, pair it with a light wine with citrus notes, like Greco di Tufo from Campania.

Avoid pairing a spicy pasta sauce with a wine that is too sweet or acidic, as this can overpower the dish and throw off the flavor.

italian wine and pasta
Yours truly at a favorite enoteca in Rome

Choose a Wine from the Same Region as the Pasta Dish

When it comes to Italian food, it is wise to choose a wine from the same region as the pasta dish to truly capture the essence of the dish. By pairing a wine from the same region as the pasta, you are ensuring that the flavors of the dish will be enhanced and balanced.

This is because wines from the same region as the pasta are crafted to bring out the best of local ingredients, thus creating a harmonious combination of flavors.

Furthermore, many Italian wine regions have a centuries-old tradition of wine-making, which has been perfected over the years, thus ensuring a harmonious pairing. By choosing a wine from the same region as the pasta dish, you are able to ensure that the balance of flavors is just right, creating a truly memorable experience.

Red or White Wine for Pasta?

Red Wine Pairings with Pasta

When it comes to red wine pairings with pasta, there are plenty of options to choose from. Primitivo from Puglia is a great choice for rustic, meaty tomato-based dishes. A Pinot Noir is a good choice for classic handmade spaghetti and will bring out the flavors of the dish.

For spicier pasta dishes, something a bit heartier, a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon will pair well with tomato sauces that include meats and bold spices. Or try a Nero d’Avola from Sicily.  

White Wine Pairings with Pasta

When preparing a pasta dish, white wines can often be the perfect complement to bring out the flavor of the dish. Here are some classic white wine pairings for pasta dishes:

Pinot Bianco: A light, spicy almond-flavored wine that is low in tannins, making it ideal for pairing with creamy, cheesy pasta dishes such as spaghetti carbonara.

Riesling: A versatile, food-friendly wine with aromatic notes of peach, apple, and pear. Perfect for creamy pasta sauces like salmon linguine, creamy sausage mushroom rigatoni, and tortellini carbonara.

Pinot Grigio: Fruity flavors like pear, lime, green apple, and honeysuckle, with a higher acidity that makes it less sweet than most other white wines. Pairs best with lighter pasta dishes such as shrimp alfredo, Italian seafood pasta, and linguine with seafood sauce.

Chardonnay: A dry, medium-to-full-bodied wine with tropical fruit-flavored notes. Great for pairing with vegetarian pastas or mushroom-based pasta dishes such as green pesto, macaroni and cheese, and creamy spinach and mushroom rigatoni.

Pairing white wine with pasta

On Pairing Wine with Pasta

OK, let’s get into some more specifics, starting with the type of pasta dish first, then picking the wine to go with it.

Wines for Tomato-Based Pasta

When it comes to tomato-based pastas, there are many different wines that pair perfectly with the dish. For pasta dishes with a tomato-based sauce, such as pomodoro, arrabbiata or marinara, it’s best to pair them with a medium-bodied red wine like Nebbiolo, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Rosso di Montalcino.

For lighter vegetable dishes that include sweeter flavors like pumpkin and sweet potato, whites like Fiano make a great pairing. For meat-based pastas like Bolognese, spaghetti with meatballs, and sausage, a Zinfandel is a solid choice to balance the hearty flavor of the dish.

For fresh tomato and basil pasta sauces, a Pinot Grigio or a light Sicilian red are a harmonious pair. Lastly, for vegetarian pasta dishes or ones that have a medley of vegetables in them, try a wine with citrus notes, such as Proseco or Pinot Grigio.

Wines for Cheese Pasta

When looking for the perfect wine to pair with your cheese-based pasta dish, there are a wide variety of options. We suggest light-bodied white wines such as Chardonnay and Riesling, or light red wines such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese.

For a more nuanced pairing, try a white wine with some creaminess to it, such as an oak-aged Italian Trebbiano or Chardonnay, as this will bring out the creaminess in the cheese. Or, if you’re looking for something to offset the creaminess of the dish, try a white wine with good natural acidity like Sauvignon Blanc, Fiano, Vermentino, and Chardonnay.

For hard-cheeses pasta like spaghetti carbonara, a lighter more floral red wine pairs well, such as Langhe Nebbiolo, Nerello Mascalese, Pinot Noir (or Italian Pinot Nero from Oltrepo Pavese) and Sangiovese.

Wines for Seafood Pasta

Which wines are suitable for seafood pasta? Some of the best wine pairings for seafood pasta dishes (both Italian and non-Italian) include dry white wines such as Pinot Grigio, Grenache Blanc, Rosé, Chardonnay, Verdicchio, Muscadet, Chablis, Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Aglianico, Piedirosso, Pinot Noir, Voila, Bardolino, and Côtes de Provence.

These wines are all light in body, with refreshing, acidic and slightly bitter profiles. They all complement the mild, fresh flavors of seafood, while not overpowering them.

Wines for Pesto Pasta

Since pesto sauce is from the Liguria region (Genova, Portofino, and The Cinque Terre), you can’t go wrong with the local Vermentino. It’s a light, crisp white that pair perfectly with pesto sauce over either Trofie or Trenette.

Pairing wine with pesto pasta

Wines for Vegetable Pasta

When it comes to vegetable pasta dishes, there are several suitable wines to pair with them. To highlight the freshness of the dish and bring out the flavors, opt for a dry and floral white wine like Soave, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay.

For vegetarian, tomato-based pasta sauces, such as pomodoro, arrabbiata or marinara, serve a Sicilian red wine like Nero d’Avola. For lighter vegetable dishes that include sweeter flavors like pumpkin and sweet potato, try whites like Fiano.

Lastly, for vegetable Primavera, a crisp and acidic white like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Soave is always a great choice.

Wines for Spicy Pasta Dishes

Spicy pasta dishes require a specific type of wine that will not overpower the flavorings. To pair with spicy pasta dishes, light red wines like Zinfandel are the best choices. Asti, Lambrusco, Reisling and Vouvray are other types of white wines that are suitable for spicy pasta dishes.

 Vegetarian, tomato-based sauces such as pomodoro, arrabbiata, or marinara pair best with Italian reds, which tend to be high in acidity. For spaghetti puttanesca, a sharply flavored dry white wine or a rustic Italian red such as Primitivo, Zinfandel, or Valpolicella Ripasso is recommended.

Wine Pairings for Specific Types of Regional Pasta Dishes

When it comes to pairing wine with pasta dishes, it’s essential to consider the geography and history of the dish that have influenced the ingredients and flavors to create the most delicious combination.

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What Wine Pairs with Agnolotti from Piemonte?

When it comes to pairing wine with Agnolotti from Piemonte, Barbera d’Alba and Gavi di Gavi are two great choices. Both wines have high acidity and weight, which will pair nicely with the acidity of the tomatoes, and the heft of the wild boar.

Barbera d’Alba is a traditional red wine from the region, while Gavi di Gavi is an international white wine with structure and body. If you’re looking for something a bit more dynamic, you might want to try a Carignan or Grenache Blanc.

What Wine Pairs with Bigoli in Salsa from Veneto?

Bigoli in Salsa from Veneto is a spaghetti dish with a 3-ingredient sauce consisting of anchovies, onion, and water. To best pair with this dish, try a Chianti Classico wine. This wine has high acidity and tannin content, which will complement the anchovies and onion in the sauce.

Other red wines that pair well with this dish include Malbech, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, or Nero d’Avola. Alternatively, you could try one of the Vermentino white wines from Sardinia, or Sancerre. Both of these whites will also pair well with the shellfish found in the dish.

The best white wines from Veneto, Italy is Soave Classico. These wines are all great for pairing with pasta dishes like Pasta Primavera, which is a great choice for Veneto’s mild climate. For a more robust option, go for a Fiano which has a good balance of acidity and citrus notes.

What Wine Pairs with Pizzoccheri from Lombardia?

When it comes to pairing wine with Pizzoccheri from Lombardia, it is important to consider both traditional and international options. For a traditional pairing, a Rosso di Valtellina composed dominantly of Nebbiolo and Trebbiano di Lugana are the best choices. For an international pairing, a Pinot Noir and a Sylvaner are the top picks.

These wines have the right combination of acidity and weight to pair with the heartiness of the dish while still being able to provide enough acidity to lift up the entire palate.

What wine pairs with Lasagna from Bologna?

If you are looking for a perfect wine pairing for Lasagna from Bologna, then a traditional Barbera red wine or Sangiovese di Romagna are great options. Barbera has bold tannins that won’t get overpowered, and the Sangiovese has a bold yet delicate flavor, like its cousin from Chianti. Both of these wines will complement the acidity of the tomatoes and the heartiness of the lasagna.

What Wine Pairs with Tortelli di Zucca from Emilia- Romagna? Tortelli di Zucca from Emilia-Romagna is a delicious and comforting dish, perfect for autumn. With a drizzly of balsamic vinegar and flavors of sage and nutmeg butter, it’s begging for a crisp wine to bring out the flavors and make the perfect pairing.

A traditional dry Lambrusco would be a great pairing for the Tortelli di Zucca. Lambrusco is a light and fruity wine, with a hint of spice which complements the nutmeg in the dish. On the other hand, Malvasia is a sweet and aromatic white wine, with hints of citrus and apricot. Both of these wines bring an extra depth to the flavors of the dish.

What Wine Pairs with Trenette al Pesto from Liguria?

When it comes to pairing wine with Trenette al Pesto from Liguria, a light to medium-bodied white wine is a perfect match. Vermentino, the dominant white grape of the region, is an herbacious white wine with a great finish, making it a great choice for the pesto sauce. For red wines, a high acid red like Sangiovese or Grenache pair particularly well. Rosé is also a great choice, offering a unique and refreshing flavor.

What Wine Pairs with Papparedelle al Cinghiale from Toscana?

Papparedelle al Cinghiale from Toscana is a thick tomato-based sauce with wild boar ragu that requires a wine with high acidity and tannin content to match its hearty and flavorful nature. Traditional wines from the region like Brunello di Montelcino and Vernaccia are the best choices.

The tannin of the Chianti Classico will break down the meat while the acidity of the wine will help in cleansing one’s palate. Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Nero d’Avola and Vinsobres are other good alternatives.

What Wine Pairs with Maccheroncini di Campofilone from Le Marche?

The best wine to pair with Maccheroncini di Campofilone from Le Marche is a traditional local red such as Sangiovese, and a white such as Verdicchio. Both of these grapes have acidity and body that match the acidity of the tomatoes and the heartiness of the wild boar in the dish. For a white option, a Semillon is a nice choice as well. Cabernet Franc is also a great pairing option with this dish because of its correct amount of acidity and body.

What Wine Pairs with Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Rome?

Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Rome is a rich, creamy dish that is full of flavor from the pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan cheese. To best complement the flavors of this classic Roman dish, a light-bodied red wine like Chianti is an excellent choice. These wines are high in acidity and will help to cut through the richness of the Carbonara and bring out the flavors of the pancetta and Parmesan cheese.

What Wine Pairs with Pasta alla Norcina from Umbria?

What wine pairs with Pasta alla Norcina from Umbria? This classic Umbrian pasta dish is made with pork, cream and black pepper and is a comforting, flavorful dish. The best wine pairing for this dish would be a medium-bodied, slightly acidic red. The Umbrian region is known for producing a variety of robust and full-bodied red wines like Sagrantino di Montefalco.

The Sagrantino di Montefalco is a great choice for Pasta alla Norcina as it has enough complexity to stand up to the richness of the pork and cream, and enough acidity to cut through the fat.

For a white option, an oaked Umbrian white wine like Grechetto could be a great pairing. It has a creamy texture and notes of honey and almonds that offer a great balance to the pork and cream in the pasta.

What Wine Pairs with Bucatini all’Amatriciana from Abruzzo?

When it comes to pairing wine with Bucatini all’Amatriciana from Abruzzo, it’s best to go with the local options. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the most popular choice. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a red grape that is packed with flavor, with notes of red berry, spices, and leather. It has a medium body and a good amount of tannins, which will pair well with the tomatoes and pancetta in the pasta.

What Wine Pairs with Cavatelli con Ragu di Maiale from Molise?

What Wine Pairs with Cavatelli con Ragu di Maiale from Molise? A perfect accompaniment for this meat-based pasta sauce from Molise is a wine with acidity and body. Traditional wines from the region include Tintilia del Molise and Falaghina, both red and white respectively.

An international option that works well is Agiorgitiko, a Greek red wine with great acidity. Alternatively, a white wine from Bordeaux such as a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc could also work.

It is important to choose a wine with high acid and weight to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and the heartiness of the wild boar in this dish.

What Wine Pairs with Linguine allo Scoglio from Campania?

When pairing wine with the Campanian dish Linguine allo Scoglio, the traditional option would be to go with Fiano, a local white wine. For an international option, Pinot Noir is light enough to not overpower the seafood. If you’re looking for a rosé, you can try a Rosé of Aglianico or a Rosato of Greco di Tufo. These wines will bring out the freshness and flavors of the seafood and make for a delicious meal.

What Wine Pairs with Spaghetti alle Vongole from Campania?

Spaghetti alle Vongole from Campania is a classic Italian dish of spaghetti with clams, which is best paired with either a white or rosé wine. The classic white choices from the region are Falanghina, Fiano, and Greco.

A dry rosé of Grenache or even of Aglianico would be as close to red as one would go with this dish, while a Chardonnay with yellow color, fresh oak and a full, fruity bouquet would be a great white selection.

What Wine Pairs with Orecchiette alla Cime di Rapa from Puglia?

What Wine Pairs with Orecchiette alla Cime di Rapa from Puglia? Orecchiette alla cime di rapa is a bright dish with garlic, olive oil, and broccoli rabe, perfect for springtime.

This dish calls for a wine with high acidity and body to match the acidity of the tomatoes and the heartiness of the dish. Therefore, a traditional wine from the region of Puglia, such as a Negroamaro would make a great pairing. For a white wine, a Fiano or Sauvignon Blanc would also be a great match.

What Wine Pairs with Spaghetti e Alici from Calabria?

What wine pairs with Spaghetti e Alici from Calabria? This traditional Italian pasta dish is a combination of spaghetti, anchovies, capers, and olives. For the full-flavored and punchy flavors, a Barbera, a bold Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon are great choices.

For a less spicy dish, such as Greco di Bianco, you can opt for a white like Reisling or a light red Zinfandel. For a more international pairing, Liatiko and Assyrtiko would be great options.

What Wine Pairs with Pasta alla Norma from Sicily?

When pairing wine with the popular Sicilian pasta dish, Pasta alla Norma, the best way to approach it is to consider the accompanying ingredients. This particular dish is made with fried eggplant, tomato, basil, and ricotta salata, which gives it a light and summery vibe. Therefore, a light-bodied wine would be the perfect accompaniment. Nero d’Avola is an excellent option from the same region, with its fragrant and crunchy profile along with light to medium body and almost Pinot-like characters.

Alternatively, a white like Nerello Mascalese, native to Sicily and planted primarily around Mount Etna, is a great choice. With its light-bodied character, it will bring out the bright flavors of the eggplant. For a more summery taste, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo cerasuolo rosé is also a delicious option with its red fruit flavors, good acidity, and a hint of salinity.

What Wine Pairs with Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia from Sicily?

When it comes to pairing wine with Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia from Sicily, it’s best to stick to whites. For white wines, it’s hard to go wrong with Grillo, a Sicilian grape, or a Chardonnay from Chablis. Greco di Tufo, a white grape from Campania, and a dry rosé of Grenache or Aglianico offer a great balance of flavor and texture to the dish and won’t overpower its delicate seafood flavors. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that this classic Italian seafood dish will be elevated and pair perfectly with either whit or a light red.

What Wine Pairs with Fregola ai Frutti di Mare from Sardinia?

The best wine pairings for Fregola ai Frutti di Mare from Sardinia include traditional Carinena, Vermentino and international Sancerre. Carinena, or Carignan, is not a full bodied red so it won’t overpower the dish. It has a ton of acidity which makes it best in rosso versions when tomatoes are used, while Vermentino is a white from Sardinia that is excellent with seafood. Sancerre is an international white that complements shellfish. Both pairings will make for a delicious seafood pasta dish.

Pairing red wine with pasta

What Wine to Pair with Pasta – Conclusion

Pasta and wine. They are like two sides of a coin, and when they are combined, they create a delightful and delicious experience that exceeds the sum of the parts. However, the specific wine and pasta pairing needs to be determined based on personal preference, as different types of pasta and wines can bring out different flavors. Wine pairing can be a fun and rewarding experience when done correctly, so be sure to experiment and find the right combinations that you and your guests enjoy the most.

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Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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