Top pairings | Wines to match different pasta sauces

Pairings | Italian reds

Wines to match different pasta sauces

What wine should you pair with your favourite pasta? As you might guess it depends on the sauce rather than the pasta shape.

Personally I like to pair Italian wine with pasta wherever possible as it suits it so well and isn't too full-bodied or alcoholic.

Creamy pasta sauces

To offset creamy sauces (eg carbonara or fettucine alfredo) think Soave, Bianco di Custoza, Pinot Bianco, Sicilian whites and lighter Chardonnay or Chardonnay blends.

With baby vegetables (primavera) or herbs (verdura): try a crisper Italian whites such as Falanghina, Vermentino or Arneis. Or a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

Six of the best wine matches for spaghetti carbonara

With mushroom pastas serve Soave, Bianco di Custoza, Lugana or Chardonnay, or a light Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Seafood pasta sauces

Seafood (spaghetti alle vongole, spaghetti with mussels, linguine with crab) need crisp dry whites such as Frascati, Verdicchio, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Muscadet or Picpoul de Pinet. A dry rosé is good too. Crab or lobster sauces can take a fuller white such as a good quality Soave or Chardonnay.

The best wine pairings for spaghetti alle vongole

Wine pairings for spaghetti all vongole
Photo by tofuprod licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Red or tomato-based pasta sauces

Tomato-based sauces include fresh tomato with basil: crisp dry whites such as Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio. Cooked tomato sauces such as napoletana or marinara): Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or a light Sicilian red.

Meat (bolognese, spaghetti with meatballs, sausage-based sauces) is a logical partner for Sicilian and Puglian reds (especially Primitivo), Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino and inexpensive Barberas. Zinfandel is good too.

Six of the best matches for spaghetti bolognese

Pesto and other cheese-based sauces

Dry whites such as Gavi, Soave or Verdicchio are best with green pesto - you could also try Sicilian whites and lighter Chardonnays). With red pesto I'd go for a medium bodied red such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese or Merlot. It’s a colour thing as much as anything

With cheese-based sauces such as four cheese and Gorgonzola): crisp dry whites such as Verdicchio, light Chardonnays or light reds such as Teroldego or Merlot.

Spicy pasta sauces

With hot spicy sauces such as arrabbiatta, aglio olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli) and puttanesca (anchovies, capers and olives) try either a sharply flavoured dry white wine or a rustic Italian red: a Primitivo or Sicilian red, Zinfandel or Valpolicella Ripasso.

The best wine pairings for spaghetti puttanesca

wine pairings for spaghetti puttanesca
Photo by being0828 licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

With fashionable cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and black pepper sauce) I prefer a light red like a frappato as you can see from one of my matches of the week.

Pasta sauces with pulses

Tuscan reds such as Chianti work well with pasta with beans or lentils (Pasta e Fagioli) or try an earthy, neutral white such as Orvieto or Vernaccia di San Gimignano)

Top image by Brent Hofacker at

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Comments: 2 (Add)

Nick Brett on March 11 2021 at 17:31

Thank you, this is very helpful. As always!
Pasta with the right wine is a wonderful thing.

Cam on July 22 2020 at 20:28

Couldn’t be bothered to proof read, eh?

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