When serving spaghetti, you should usually base your drink selection on its sauce. Red sauces generally call for a full-bodied red wine, while cream and seafood sauces call for a crisp white wine. However, these aren’t hard and fast rules. You can serve white wine with red sauce or red wine with seafood. Alternatively, you can skip wine altogether and serve beer. Don’t drink something you don’t like just because it’s traditional or fashionable. Instead, experiment with a variety of pairings and find the one that works best for you.
Red wine is the traditional pairing for red pasta sauces. A hearty red like Tempranillo, Sangiovese or Chianti will stand out over the acidity of the tomatoes. For spicy sauces, a merlot should work nicely. If you’d rather have white wine, try a pinot grigio. If you prefer beer, amber ale is a good choice for lighter red sauces. For heavier, meatier sauces, consider serving a porter or stout.
White sauces tend to be thick and rich, so a bright, acidic white wine provides a nice balance. Chardonnay is a classic pairing, but you can also try a dry Riesling, a pinot grigio or a pinot bianco. If you’re looking for a red wine, pinot noir is a good match. Beer served with white sauces should be moderately acidic and hoppy; IPA is an excellent choice.
The strong, fresh flavor of spaghetti with pesto calls for an equally flavorful wine. Spicy, medium-weight zinfandels, syrahs and rosés can work well with this dish. Alternatively, you can choose a classic Italian white like Vermentino or Cinque Terre. Avoid oaky chardonnays, as they may taste bitter when paired with pesto. If you’re serving beer, choose something pale and crisp with low alcohol content, such as a blond ale.
If you’re making spaghetti with an oil-based sauce, you’ll probably want to serve a white wine with enough acidity to cut through the oil. White wines with citrus notes also tend to complement these sauces. Sauvignon blanc is a good choice. Suitable red wines include pinot noir and Sangiovese. As with pesto, a pale, low-alcohol beer is probably best.
Traditionally, seafood pasta is served with white wine. For delicate dishes like white fish, a light sauvignon blanc is appropriate. For richer dishes containing salmon or shellfish, an oak-free chardonnay, pinot grigio or white Bordeaux is preferable. If you’d rather serve red wine, pinot noir is ideal. When choosing a beer, look for something light and refreshing, such as a hefeweizen, pilsner or pale ale.
References and ResourcesCooking Light: Which Wines Go Best With Baked Pasta?
Rosetto: Wine Pairing Guide
"Pairing Wine With Food"; Robert Hoffman and Virginia Hoffman
Brew-Monkey.com: Beer and Food--An Introduction
"From the Earth to the Table--John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine"; John Ash and Sid Goldstein
WineReviewOnline.com: Wine With . . . Pesto Pasta
Sunset Magazine: Your Wine Pairing Guide -- Chardonnay
Sunset: Your Wine Pairing Guide -- Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio