Pasta perfect. Perfect pasta. I love pasta. Pasta is perfect. Tomato sauces, creamy sauces, oil or pesto-based sauces, and primavera-style, loaded with veggies. You name it,I’m there. Regular Plant & Vine readers also know that I’m super into wine. Tell me facts about soil types, grape genetics, tasting notes, and vine training techniques and I’m there all day, just wine nerding it out. Luckily, my love for pasta and my love for wine combine into one massive delicious feast of flavors. Pairing wine with pasta is a dreamy situation. These compatible creations are complimentary vessels of taste.
So, let’s talk about it – what are the best wines with pasta? Which wine goes best with creamy pasta versus tomato-based pastas? What wine goes with lasagna? What wine should I choose for my spaghetti and vegan meatball dinner? What makes pasta and wine so damn good together?
Let’s start with the most important pasta and wine pairing tip: the sauce will guide your wine selection. Yes, it’s that simple. Ignore the pasta, pay attention to the sauce. Noodles are nothing but sauce vehicles, at least as far as wine pairings are concerned. Now that we have that basic point clarified, let’s talk about the main sauce categories:
- Primavera or veggie pasta
As we run through the basics, remember that there’s not just one right way to drink wine and eat pasta. If you have a favorite wine pairing that I don’t mention, go for it (and tell me about it in the comments). As in life, the best way to find out what you like is to start trying new things, so let your imagination run wild with Plant & Wine as but a guide.
wine pairings for tomato-based sauces
Tomato-based sauces are rich, tangy, and high in acid, which means, to avoid making the tomatoes taste metallic, you need a wine that can support the acidity. A tomato-based structure is well-suited for a medium-bodied, medium tannin, and medium-to-high acid red. This might sound like you’re going to be eating spaghetti with the same Italian red for the rest of your life, but rest assured, plenty of different wines satisfy this criteria. Here are a few examples:
tomato sauce pasta and wine pairings
- Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs with Sangiovese, Valpolicella, or Barbera
- Vegan Baked Ziti with Sangiovese, GSM Blend, or Montepulciano
- Vegan Stuffed Shells with Sangiovese, Barbera, or Cabernet Franc
wine pairings for creamy sauce pasta
Most wines do pretty well with creamy-based sauces, whether they’re dairy and cheese driven or cashew-based. Let this forgiving combination embolden you to try some more nuanced pairings. For example, an oak-aged Chardonnay, a full-bodied white wine with some complimentary creaminess to create a congruent pairing with the sauce. Looking for something with a little more contrast to brighten up the meal? Try a lighter, floral red, especially if your pasta contains some richness through root vegetables, mushrooms, or truffles. Here are some tasty options:
cream sauce pasta and wine pairings
- Creamy Avocado Pasta with Chablis, Champagne, or Vinho Verde
- Broccoli Cauliflower Pasta with Tahini Sauce with Pinot Grigio, Chablis, or Pinot Noir
- Vegan Mushroom Risotto with White Burgundy, Pinot Noir, or Barolo
wine pairings for pesto pasta
Classic pesto is traditionally made from pine nuts and basil, but you can make pesto with whatever greens and nut pairing you desire: basil-walnut, parsley-peanut, and pistachio-cilantro are great candidates. The main consideration when matching pesto pasta with wine is to focus on the herbaceous, green center of the dish. Whatever wine you choose should be a pair harmoniously with the herbs. Generally speaking, herbaceous wines that contain their own green flavors are best suited for the task. Here are some examples to get your green brain power flowing:
wine pairings for pesto pasta recipes
- Pea Pesto Pasta with Sauvignon Blanc, Gavi, or Verdejo
primavera (vegetable pasta) and wine pairings
Onions, garlic, artichoke, broccoli, carrots, bell pepper, and asparagus are some of the main vegetable components of a pasta primavera dish. Pasta primavera was invented as an American pasta dish in the 1970s and it focuses on the lightly cooked freshness of the veggies rather than the flavor profile of the sauce. Light-bodied white wines with lemony, herbal, or floral notes are a great choice as are savory, fuller bodied whites if you’re cooking with heartier, root vegetables. If you add tomatoes to your pasta primavera, it will also change your pairings – see the top tomato-based wine section. Here are a few wine pairings to get started:
wine pairings for pasta primavera recipes
- Primavera Pasta with Soave, Greco di Tufo, Trebbiano
lasagna and wine pairings
Lasagna gets its own category because it’s that delicious. Since I’m vegan, my ideal lasagna contains no meat, but you better believe it contains the same level of flavor. Stuffed with veggies, lasagna can work either in a tomato or cream-based sauce. Again, the type of sauce will very much guide your wine selection, but since lasagna is usually more dense and heavy than other pastas, you’ll want to select a fuller bodied bottle like any of the following:
- Rhône Blends
- Sauvignon Blanc (cream sauce)
- Grüner Veltliner (cream sauce)
wine pairings for vegan lasagna:
- Vegan Lasagna with Sangioverse, Barbera, or Tempranillo
what to do once you have picked out a bottle:
(1) decant your wine
So now that you have your bottle ready, how do you serve it? If you’re drinking a red and having some friends over for dinner, make sure you decant it. You’ll earn extra points for looking fancy while improving the taste by letting your wine breathe and develop more aromatic complexity with oxygen. It will also soften the tannins for a smoother finish. If you want to up your wine decanting game, check out my wine decanter guide.
(2) make sure you have the right wine glasses
So you’ve picked the perfect bottle and decanted it. Don’t let all that foresight go to waste: make sure you’re using the right glasses to achieve full wine greatness. I use one set of glasses for both red and white wines. And yes, it is important to have the right glasses so you can actually smell the wine aromas. Check out my wine resource guide for my suggestions.
(3) enjoy your meal and wine
The most important step. Let me know how your pasta and wine pairing adventure goes!