Choosing a wine to go with lasagna presents a challenge when so many wines from both Europe and the United States complement the flavors in many types of lasagna. Whether serving a cheese, meat, vegetarian or white lasagna, choose a wine based on personal tastes as well as one that works well with the food. In general, a heavy dish such as lasagna pairs best with fuller-bodied wines, including reds, whites and blends.
Meat lasagnas, traditionally layered with hearty tomato sauce and rich cheeses, pair well with full-bodied red wines such as shiraz, chianti and valpolicella. Use your own palette and preferences to guide you among the variety of complementary wines. Diners with a preference for dry wines can choose the shiraz or chianti. Valpolicella retains the full-bodied red character while holding on to a fruity flavor, blending cherry, grape and vanilla flavors. Opt for valpolicella with lasagna made with sweet or spicy Italian sausage.
White lasagnas made with shredded chicken, cheese only, or a seafood blend pair best with full-bodied white wines. Choose pinot grigio, chardonnay, or white blends that feature a crisp finish with a dry full-bodied mouth feel. Look for labels that list oaken, citrus blend or vanilla undertones to blend best with white lasagnas.
Because vegetarian lasagna loses some of its richness with the exclusion of meat or seafood, lighter-bodied wines can pair better with it than other lasagnas. Choose a pinot noir to pair with spinach marinara lasagna or a viognier to match with an Alfredo lasagna layered with zucchini or artichokes. A malbec or syrah with its fruity and light flavor but slightly tannic tongue taste pairs well with a lasagna caprese with fresh tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and fresh basil.
Shredded cooked chicken works equally well in cheesy lasagna with white sauce and in a rich lasagna with garlicky red sauce. For that reason, pairing wines to chicken lasagna proves tricky. When making a red-sauce lasagna, use boneless skinless chicken thighs and shred them after slow cooking in an herbal broth. Incorporate the chicken thighs into a roasted tomato sauce. Pair this lasagna with a full-bodied red wine, ignoring the old adage of pairing poultry with white. Only a syrah or merlot can fully complement the complex flavors of the dark-meat chicken. When using chicken breasts, choose a lighter wine. Something like a pinot noir works with red sauce or a pinot grigio complements white sauce with shredded chicken breasts when layered with bechamel sauce and basil.
References and ResourcesThe America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine and Food Pairing; Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt
ResourcesNPR: The Wine-With-Vegetables Challenge
The Splendid Table: Winter Squash Lasagna with Sage, Walnuts, and Black Kale