The Best Wine Choices for Spaghetti and Meatballs

By Andrea Lott Haney

A bottle of vino makes a 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 three things: the flavors in the sauce or meatballs, the side dish and your budget.

Spaghetti with meatballas, fresh green basil leaves and red wine
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The Best Wine Choices for Spaghetti and Meatballs

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 a lighter-bodied Valpolicella, which has a hint of bitterness. Named after the region in Italy where it originates, Valpolicella 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 semisweet taste. If dryer reds are more your thing, consider one from outside of Italy. South American and Californian wines like cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec all go well with spaghetti and meatballs but contain varying degrees of sugar and tannins. Malbec tastes the sweetest and can be served slightly chilled. For those who prefer a dry and highly tannic wine, serve cabernet sauvignon at room temperature.

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 rich red blends provide a complexity of flavor with dark fruit overtones and bitter coffee undertones. Served ideally at 59 degrees Fahrenheit, they 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 spaghetti and meatballs. A crispy, 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 is dry but remains fruity and balances the strong garlic and onion flavors of the spaghetti.