The Best Wine Choices for Spaghetti & Meatballs

By Andrea Lott Haney

A bottle of wine to share makes a romantic spaghetti and meatballs dinner even more indulgent. Choosing the best wine to go with your dinner depends on your personal taste but can be guided by the flavors in the sauce or meatballs, your budget and what's being served on the side.

Spaghetti and Meatball
credit: Bob Ingelhart/iStock/Getty Images
Sip your choice of red or white wine with spaghetti and meatballs.

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Keep It Traditional

When in doubt, the safe choice of wine for a pasta dish with hearty beef meatballs and rich red sauce is a full-bodied Italian red. Although Chianti appears on most Italian menus and you may be familiar with its dryness and heavy tannins, consider trying a lighter-bodied Valpolicella with its hint of bitterness as well. Valpolicella, named after the region in Italy where it originates, comes in two varieties: the more intense, bitter and expensive Amarone; and the less expensive ripasso with a bit more sweetness and a lot more alcohol.

Indulge on a Budget

The fruity and bubbly Lambrusco, a sweet red typically served chilled, complements spaghetti and meatballs, especially when the sauce or beef contains an extra kick of spiciness. More expensive Lambrusco may have a semi-sweet taste. If dryer reds suit your taste, consider a red from outside Italy. South American and Californian wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec all complement spaghetti and meatballs but contain varying degrees of sugar and tannins. Malbec tastes the sweetest and can be served slightly chilled. Cabernet sauvignon should be served at room temperature to those who prefer a dry and highly tannic wine.

Splurge When You Can

At the top end of wine choices for spaghetti and meatballs, choose a Chianti or Sangiovese blend from the Tuscan region of Italy. These red blends provide a complexity of flavor with dark fruit overtones and bitter coffee undertones. Served ideally at 59 degrees Fahrenheit, these rich reds complement the anise flavors from the oregano in spaghetti sauce and stand up well to the beefy umami of the meatballs. Explore French and Spanish wines for a bit of variety from the region. French Bordeaux especially complements sauce with a heavy mushroom component.

White Wines Encouraged

Not every table prefers red wines and food is color blind. Drink white wine if that's what you enjoy with your spaghetti and meatballs. A crisply dry white wine like pinot grigio or chardonnay offsets some of the sweetness of the tomatoes and refreshes the palate. During a special celebration, splurge on a sparkling prosecco instead. Prosecco, though dry, remains fruity and balances the strong garlic and onion flavors of the spaghetti.