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As a sommelier, I quickly learned a little rule in the wine world: What grows together, goes together. You can look to a dish’s region of origin for wine pairing inspiration. But on your next pasta night, you don’t need to keep it in Italy to find a great wine to go with dinner! Wines from every corner of the world will work just fine, as long as you follow these simple guidelines for food and drink pairings.
Now on to our favorite wine pairings with some of the most popular ultra-classic Italian dinners.
With its rich tomato sauce and plentiful flavor, a linguine Bolognese makes a great mid-week dinner. A sangiovese (Italy’s most planted variety) is just the thing to take this dish to the next level. This red wine can be fruity or savory, and the grape’s naturally high acid and tannins complement bolognese sauce (and other meaty, tomato-y pasta dishes like linguine and meatballs or lasagna) beautifully.
This simple dish allows you to branch out with your pairing possibilities. A fruity zinfandel (or primitivo if you want to keep your wines to the Boot) is a fantastic option. But white wine lovers can opt for a bright, zesty variety like pinot grigio (or Greco di Tufo if you want a local option). These wines’ high acid matches that found in the tomatoes to a T. Of course, you can also pick up a great rosé for your pizza margherita, too. (Here are five more things you should know about rosé.)
Let’s talk seafood for a minute—shrimp scampi in particular. This dish is heavy on garlic with a pop of lemon juice to help tie it together. Pairing wine with a garlicky dish can be a bit tricky, but don’t despair—it’s not as hard as you might think. As with the pizza, you want to keep it light and bright. Sauvignon blanc will treat your taste buds right in this situation. When it comes to seafood, you won’t go wrong if you stay away from any oak-influenced whites (think chardonnay).
Caponata is an eggplant dish which comes to us all the way from Sicily. Heavy on the vegetables and with a generous dose of briny capers, caponata is one part savory, one part salty (and delish on crostini). When it comes to salty, most of us love a good dose of sweetness to wash it down. Go for something fruity, but not sweet. A superb local choice would be the frappato-nero d’avola blends of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, but since these wines aren’t readily available everywhere, a fruit-forward pinot noir makes an excellent substitute.
Translated to “angry” in English, arrabbiata earns its name from the generous helping of spicy chilies which star in the sauce (which is awesome in this stuffed shells recipe). Stay away from high-tannin wines like cabernet sauvignon and opt for soft, fruity styles instead. There are plenty of reds that’ll go with pasta all’arrabbiata, but personally, I think a rosé works best: grenache or a GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvédre) blend is a favorite.
Chicken, veal, or pork—scaloppine comes in many forms and has a variety of sauces that can adorn your plate. Some are tomato-based while others feature loads of lemon and capers, or even mushrooms. All this means is that there are dozens upon dozens of potential wine pairings available to you. Chicken scaloppine with capers and lemons? Try an unoaked chardonnay from Chablis. Veal and mushrooms? Nebbiolo is perfect if you want to keep things Italian. Or for this pork scaloppine with red peppers and balsamic vinegar, serve a lambrusco (made in the same region as balsamic vinegar), a Valpolicella, or even a tempranillo from Spain’s Rioja region.
There are plenty of great wine options for your favorite Italian dinners. What better way to treat yourself mid-week?