Is it ever possible to get sick of eating pasta? With countless shapes and sauces, each region of Italy has its own signature pasta dishes. From delicate to hearty, creamy to tomato-based, there’s a pasta for every wine out there – and several fitting wines for every pasta dish.
While it’s safe to pair white sauces like Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara with white wine and red sauces like Amatriciana and Bolognese with red wine, it doesn’t hurt to mix things up. Acidity is important regardless of the pasta’s richness, as acid can both balance the weight of creamy or oil-rich sauces and match the brightness of tangy tomato-based or citrusy sauces.
The next time you decide to whip up a quick pasta dish, don’t skimp on the wine pairing. Start with these five recipes and pairing ideas, but don’t worry about playing around, either – as long as you’re embodying the spirit of la dolce vita, you’re good to go!
Classic Ragù Bolognese
The recognizable, hearty Ragù Bolognese sauce uses time and patience to make a flavorful, tomato-rich sauce of meat and vegetables. It’s savory and rich at the same time, typically served with a healthy smattering of grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Nothing handles the tang of this sauce like Italy’s local reds. Sangiovese is the go to pick, its bright acidity and herbal accents complementing the Ragù’s layers of flavor. You can do Sangiovese two ways – Chianti Classico makes a nice budget minded choice, or snag a Brunello di Montalcino if you want to splurge. For an option outside of Italy, try a bottle of Zweigelt from Austria; you’ll see many of those same flavors, but with a more refined and less rustic core.
According to this recipe, “real” Fettuccine Alfredo never actually includes cream; the creamy consistency comes from cheese, butter, and pasta water. But if you decide to add an extra dollop of cream, we won’t tell. Balance out the richness with a good amount of black pepper.
The key for pairing with this wine is to look for options that combine body and acidity. Chardonnay is a natural choice, either from Burgundy (look to the Mâconnais or a standard Bourgogne Blanc to keep things affordable) or from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. A light, mild red could also work with Fettuccine Alfredo, like Schiava from Alto Adige or Beaujolais from France.
Our recipe pick: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fettuccine-alfredo
Shrimp Scampi is one of those dishes that seems fancy yet is super simple to prepare. It’s essentially made of shrimp, butter, garlic, parsley, and lemon, though it never hurts to add a healthy splash of fresh white wine to the sauce as well. This recipe uses linguine as the pasta of choice, but you can pick whichever you fancy and it’ll still rock.
Given the zing of lemon that balances out that buttery richness, a fresh, zingy white wine is optimal to pair with Shrimp Scampi. Try out the citrusy flavors of Muscadet, or for a more robust option, the minerally white wines of Etna Bianco strike just the right balance. A nice Chablis with its saline and lemon notes would be a no-brainer as well.
Though it’s easy to buy pesto in a jar, there is just nothing like freshly made Pesto. It’s actually fairly easy to prepare – it just requires plenty of fresh basil. Those who are allergic to pine nuts – or those who might not have them in the pantry – can substitute almonds instead to make a Sicilian-style Pesto.
Bring out the herbal flavors of pesto without overwhelming them by pairing a light white like Sancerre or Grüner Veltliner. Each has herbal accents and bright acidity to meld seamlessly.
Our recipe pick: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/best-pesto
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
It’s hard to argue against a pasta sauce that highlights both guanciale (a cut of pork jowl that tastes like bacon) and cheese, but don’t be scared by the raw eggs that make the dish saucy. Once you try this recipe out, you’ll be surprised at how simple it actually is to make.
Either white or red wine can work here, from the Garganega-based Soave wines of the Veneto to the bright Alpine reds of the Valle d’Aosta. Even a classic Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand or California’s Sonoma Coast would be delicious.
Our recipe pick: https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/spaghetti-alla-carbonara
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