You should consider pasta simply as a canvas to deliver the accompanying ingredients, that's why the best tip on pairing wine with pasta is to ignore the pasta and pay attention to the sauce.
Here are 4 popular pasta dishes with a selected wine style as well as several suggested Italian wines to get you started. These suggestions are not written in stones, but are just one way you could enjoy these wines or pastas. Many roads lead to Rome, as it were. And, hey, there’s only one way to find out. Start popping bottles! Happy drinking.
1. Tomato-Based Pasta
Tomato-based sauces have a high acidity and are often blended with rich, red meats. Because of it, a relatively tart red with middle-weight body is your best option. As much as this sounds limiting, there are a ton of different grape varieties (and blends) that will happily fill this role. As you add more richness (meat, cream) you can move up in body, but definitely keep the fresh acid! Few examples are Negroamaro, Nero d'Avola, Primitivo, or Sangiovese (Chianti, Vino Nobile, Brunello, etc).
2. Cheese Pasta
It’s hard to find a wine that won’t pair fairly well with cheese. Instead, think of this pasta style as an opportunity to try some of the more texture-based, nuanced pairings. For example, an oak-aged (even better with MLF undergone) white wine is going to create a congruent pairing and highlight the creaminess in the cheese (think ricotta!). Also, lighter more floral red wines are another awesome pairing partner with tart, intense hard-cheese pasta, especially if there are mushrooms or root vegetables involved in the sauce. Here are a few options to try:
White: Ribolla Gialla, Friulano
3. Seafood Pasta
If you look up great coastal Italian recipes, you’ll discover that many contain some anchovies, clams, or some sort of seafood. Being surrounded by the Mediterranean is an essential part of coastal Italian cooking. Perhaps this is why the Italians make such deliciously lean, white wines, often with a sense of refreshing bitterness. Naturally, lean to middle-weight white wines are the way to go for most seafood based pastas unless there is tomato as well, and then you’ll want to look into a rosato (Italian rosé). Here are a few top picks:
4. Pesto Pasta
While most of us are familiar with the “classic” pine nut and basil pesto, you can really make pesto with whatever greens and nut pairing you desire: basil-walnut, parsley-pistachio, peanut-cilantro, hazelnut-mint… you get the idea. The real trick to matching these different pestos with wine is by simply acknowledging the green is the centerpiece of the dish. As soon as you do, whatever wine you choose (be it red, white or bubbly) should in some way be a harmonious, congruent pairing with the green. For the most part, you’ll find that herbaceous wines are best suited. Of course, there are many amazing savory, herb-driven wines out there, so don’t let this list hamper your creativity. Here are a couple of examples to get you thinking: Gavi, or Grillo.
Image credits: Mae Mu