Pasta comes in a variety of guises, literally hundreds of different shapes and sizes. And the same dizzying array of recipes to pair with them, often incorporating a myriad of different flavours. It can be filled or stuffed like cannelloni, ravioli and tortellini. Layered like lasagne, or used to carry the sauce like tagliatelle, penne, fusilli and spaghetti for example.
Remember about matching the weight of the dish to that of the wine. Generally, therefore, light pasta dishes are best with light to medium bodied reds and full bodied reds go better with more robust sauces. You don’t really need a complex wine with pasta dishes; a fruity, often hearty, rustic wine is often a good accompaniment.
Tomato sauce based pasta dishes like lasagne and spaghetti bolognese pair well with red wines with refreshing acidity– try a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, young Chianti, or Barbera. Australian Shiraz goes well with rich tomato based dishes, and with hearty meaty tomato dishes, try a Primitivo from Puglia, Californian Zinfandel, or Argentinian Malbec.
White wines work well with for matching pasta with creamy sauces like carbonara – try a Soave from Italy’s Veneto region. For something different, try a Fiano from Campania in the South of Italy.
For pasta with cheese, try a medium to full bodied Chardonnay, if the sauce is not too cheesy as the buttery characteristics of the sauce are echoed in the wine. If the sauce is really cheesy, especially if a lot of mascarpone is used, you might prefer something to cut through all that richness – try a Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer a red, a light Italian, such as a Valpolicella would be a good choice.
When pairing pasta with a herb base sauce consider that the pronounced flavour of pesto demands a wine with an equal punch – try a New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. You could also try a Gavi, from Piedmont in North West Italy, made from the Cortese grape variety, which has herbal overtones. If you want a red, the characteristic bitter finish of Dolcetto will marry well with the herbs.
Pasta with hot sauces, like Arrabiata, which use a lot of chilli, need more thought – if it is mildly spiced, a spicy red like a Shiraz, Primitivo, Zinfandel or Malbec will work well, but if there is chili overload, you need a fresh fruity white to neutralise it, like a Verdejo or Albariño/Alvarinho.
FISHY PASTA SAUCES – try a fresh, light, white wine, like a Pinot Grigio, Verdicchio, Vermentino or a Frascati, the signature wine of Rome!
If in doubt, as Italy is the home of pasta, look at regional pasta and wine pairings - you won’t go far wrong and will be spoilt for choice!