Pasta and wine are a classic combination, enhancing the flavor of each other. Pairing a glass of great wine with your favorite pasta dish can bring out the best features of both, making for a delicious and special meal. 

But let’s be honest: pairing wine with pasta can be challenging. There are so many wine varieties out there and so many different types of pasta dishes in Italian cuisine, so you can’t just grab any wine and expect it to pair well with every kind of pasta — it takes some thought and planning if you want your meal to taste amazing.

To help, we have compiled this guide on pairing wine with pasta. Read on to discover which wines pair perfectly with pasta dishes.

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Wine pairing basics

Let’s begin our guide with food and wine pairing. Below are some widely accepted rules that sommeliers use to pair wines with dishes.

Congruent pairings

The congruent pairings principle assumes playing on similarities. Consider the texture and density of a dish, and look for the same characteristics in the wine. For example, when pairing white wine wine and cheese, a creamy and indulgent cheese like brie can be perfectly paired with a rich and buttery Chardonnay, as both share similar characteristics in texture and flavor profile. Similarly, a crisp and acidic Sauvignon Blanc can be an ideal match for tangy goat cheese, as both have bright and refreshing qualities

Contrasting pairings 

Two opposite tastes can perfectly complement each other if they have enough flavor intensity to prevent getting lost in another component’s flavors. Sweet vs. bitter or sweet vs. salty are examples of such contrasts. If you wondered why so many people like pairing sweet wines with savory foods, it’s because it adds another dimension to an already complex dish!

Regional origin

If you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with your dinner, you may want to pick a wine from the same geographical area as your dish. Terroir is the unique combination of factors that contribute to the taste and flavor of a wine, and i’ss shaped by the climate, soils, and terrain of the grapes’ geographical area.

If you have California-produced Monterey Jack cheese on your table, consider pairing it with California Chardonnay.

Flavor profile

Next, the flavor intensity should be on the same level for both the dish and wine. Wines and dishes with similar flavor profiles are more likely to pair well together. For example, a dish with strong flavors like garlic or spices will go well with an equally bold wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. On the other hand, the best wine for shrimp scampi, a light and flavourful dish, would be crisp and refreshing white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, which can bring out the delicate flavors of the shrimp and balance the buttery richness of the sauce.

Acidity and fat

In great food and wine pairings, the drink is more acidic than the dish – following this principle will prevent the wine from overpowered by the food. You will also ensure that the flavors of both components in the pairing will be able to shine. 

In addition, the bright acidity in wine can balance out the fat content in the dish.

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Picking the best wine for pasta dishes: key considerations to make

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of food and wine pairing, let’s combine pasta and wine. Here are some key factors to consider for a perfect pasta pair.

Weight Balance

When pairing wine with pasta, consider the weight balance of the dish. If you have vegetarian pasta, you’ll want a light-bodied wine; if your dish is light on sauce and heavy on meat or cheese, go for something richer in flavor.

Red wines go well with heartier pasta dishes with creamy sauces, while light-bodied white wines go better with seafood or veggie-based dishes. 

For a cream-based sauce like Alfredo, a heavier white wine like Chardonnay balances the sauce’s richness well. The same thing to creamy pasta dishes like carbonara. Chardonnay pairs best with these dishes thanks to its buttery, creamy flavor. 

But for a lighter dish like veggie pasta, Sauvignon Blanc, with its savory character, might be the best match.

Flavor profile

When choosing the wine to pair with pasta, consider the flavor profile of your dish. What kind of flavors do you want your wine to complement? Is your pasta dish sweet or savory? Or spicy? Are any ingredients especially sweet, fruity, or acidic (say, the tomato sauce)? Ask yourself these questions when working on pasta and wine pairings.

When choosing the best wine for pasta dishes, a sauce matters. Light-bodied varieties like Chardonnay will be a great complement if you want to serve white wine with spaghetti in olive oil-based sauce. White wine is the way to go with a tomato-based sauce (like marinara). For dishes with bolder flavors like pesto, opt for something more acidic like Pinot Grigio to cut through the intensity of the herbs and garlic. 


Acidity refers to how much acid is present in each sip of wine; more acid means more mouthwatering tartness. 

The acidity of the wine should match that of the food to create balance in the dish. Choosing the right type of wine with the right acidity can bring out the flavors of the pasta dish and make a delicious meal. When pairing aglio e olio with Sauvignon Blanc, the refreshing acidity of the wine will help to cut through the richness of the oil and garlic in the sauce. 

Red or white? Wine Varieties to Consider

Wondering which varieties could make perfect wine pairings with pasta? Overall, the type of wine you choose can range from light and fruity white to a full-bodied red, depending on the pasta you make.

Best red wines to pair with pasta

Red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot have bold flavors that can handle richly-flavored pasta sauces. Whether it’s a heavy creamy sauce or a red sauce, the complexity of these varieties will bring out the best flavors in your pasta dish. 

Best white wines to pair with pasta

White wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling can also be the best wines for pasta dishes. Served with different sauces — cream-based, pesto, or tomato-based sauce, pasta dishes pair well with the wines’ flavors. Moreover, these whites provide a nice balance of acidity to cut through the richness of the pasta.

Plate of pasta with a bottle of wine and two glasses

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7 amazing wine and pasta pairings

As you can see, different pasta shapes and varieties pair best with other wines, so it’s essential to consider the pasta and the sauce when selecting a wine. 

Now it’s time to move on to the most exciting part — the incredible wine and pasta pairings that will surprise and delight you.

#1 Carbonara pairings

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish made with pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan cheese. If you’re looking to pair wine with carbonara, there are specific considerations to make. 

If you prefer reds, look for full-bodied wine varieties with earthy tones and a high tannin level. These wines will provide the right balance of acidity and body needed to complement the creaminess of your carbonara dish.

Carbonara uses different cheeses — Parmesan, Cheddar, Pecorino Romano, and Ricotta, to name a few. Wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris will make a great pair with Parmesan used in Carbonara. Cheddar pasta Carbonara will go well with reds like Pinot Noir and Malbec and Pecorino Romano pairs perfectly with Chianti. For Ricotta pasta, consider Chenin Blanc or sparkling wines like Champagne.

On the other hand, pairing Carbonara with white wine will help balance the dish’s creaminess. An excellent white wine to go with Carbonara is Pinot Grigio.

#2 Cheese-based pasta pairings

When pairing wine with cheese-based pasta, you need to consider the type of cheese and how it’s cooked. For example, cheddar is a sharper and more pungent cheese than mozzarella or parmesan. Thus, your wine pairing requires a higher acidity level so their flavors don’t clash too much. The same goes for blue cheeses — they have quite an intense flavor that can be overpowering if not paired with the right wine.

What about wines that match with cheese-based pasta and make a great meal? One of the best pairings is the Sauvignon Blanc. This light-bodied white wine has a crispness that is perfect for this dish — the desired acidity level can cut through the creaminess of the cheese. 

Another white that goes well with cheese-based pasta is Pinot Grigio  with its fruity taste. Pinot Noir and Sangiovese can also be go-to options for fans of red wines.

#3 Tomato-based pasta pairings

When choosing a perfect pairing for tomato-based pasta dishes, pick the one that goes well with the pasta’s sauce. The acidity in the wine will help to balance out the richness of a tomato-based sauce, while the flavors will complement each other perfectly. Red wines that pair well with tomato-based pasta include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel. If you’re looking for a more fruity option, you can go with a red wine with a hint of citrus, such as Shiraz or Pinot Noir.

You can also try a white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. If you want something a little different, dry rosé is a good choice since it’s not too sweet. 

#4 Pesto-based pasta pairings

Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. Pesto sauce pairs well with most types of pasta, and is especially good when paired with seafood and vegetable-based pasta like zucchini noodles (zoodles). A light and fresh pesto pasta is a great dish to enjoy in the summertime. 

When it comes to wine, you have to choose a variety that is not too heavy or acidic. Good white wines to pair with pesto would be Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

#5 Seafood pasta pairings

Like most kinds of seafood, shrimps, scallops, and mussels in your pasta call for lighter wines. That’s to say, you’ll need something crisp enough to cut through all that rich sauce on top of your spaghetti. 

If you’re going with whites, some of the perfect matches are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. All these varieties pair perfectly with a wide range of seafood pasta dishes.

If red wine is more up your alley, consider going for medium-bodied red with notes of berries or cherries. These notes will complement seafood nicely while still letting the shellfish flavors shine through. The viable options among reds are Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.

#6 Vegetable pasta pairings

What about a perfect companion for vegetable pasta? Most wines that are light in flavor work well with it. 

White wine is probably the best choice for vegetable pasta dishes because it can accompany the flavors of your dish without overpowering them. The best dry white wines for pairing with fresh veggies are crisp, light-bodied, and fruity. Light Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc are good examples of such wines. You can also choose rosés like Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, or sparkling wines if you prefer these over dry whites.

As for red wines, Pinot Noir is the preferable light-bodied companion for your seafood pasta meal.

#7 Spicy pasta pairings

Spicy pasta pairings can be tricky: the amount of spice in your dish and wine need to be balanced. The key here is finding a wine with enough body and structure to stand up to your spicy pasta while not overpowering it with too much alcohol or tannins.

Many different types of wines pair well with spicy pasta dishes. Dry white wine like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or Riesling perfectly matches spicy dishes. These crisp and light wines make them go well with the fresh flavors in your spicy pasta meal. 

Now, what about reds? Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti would work well with spicy pasta due to being bold and tannic. These features help the wine stand up to the strong flavors in spicy dishes. 

A pro tip: choose red or white wine that isn’t too sweet so that it doesn’t take away from the dish’s spiciness.

Plate of pasta and a glass of wine on a table

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The bottom line

Now that you know a little more about pairing wine with pasta, it’s time to get cooking. No matter what pasta you make, there’s a perfect wine. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to create a delicious meal with the tips shared in this post, so experiment with different types of wines to find the perfect pairing for your pasta dish, and enjoy the ideal balance of flavors.