Here we are stuck at home. Well, at least there’s pasta in the pantry. Truly, no pantry should be without dried pasta and jarred sauce at any time. In this case, we’re talking about pretty much any dried noodle with a tomato based sauce, such as marinara. This pantry meal is a weeknight miracle enabling dinner to get on the table in a minimal amount of time. Now, let’s take it to the next level and talk about pairing pasta marinara with wine.
Wine Pairing Guidelines
When you hear wine pros talk about selecting a pairing for tomato sauce they talk about acidity. The rule in wine pairing is that the wine acidity level should be equal to or slightly greater than the level of the food’s acidity level. Since tomatoes are an acidic food, it follows that the wine to complement tomato sauce needs to meet or slightly exceed the sauce’s acidity. Blah, blah, blah, right? Who typically knows what that heck that means? Honestly, it wasn’t until I started seriously studying wine that I even contemplated acid in wine. So, here’s one way to simplify it. Think about how a squeeze of citrus can wake up a dressing or fried fish. Ta daaaaa! It’s because that squeeze of lemon or lime adds acid.
How do you know if a wine has bright acid? Basically, if the wine makes your mouth water after you swallow a sip then bingo, you have a winner! Several go-to red wine varieties with this characteristic are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Barbera.
Pairing Pasta Marinara with Washington Wines
Pro tip: when heating up the sauce, add a splash of wine. A splash for the cook might be just the right thing, too!
Washington State wines offer a New World interpretation of Old World varieties. The following are a few Washington wines I’ve had the pleasure of tasting recently and recommend.
As I write this, Washington State is under a stay-home order due to the recent pandemic. Local wineries have been hit hard as a result. Forced tasting room and restaurant closures combined with canceled release parties have resulted in decreased sales for many. Thankfully, a number of wineries have quickly pivoted and offer online and/or phone orders with options such as no-contact curbside pickup and even delivery. Some have shipping specials as well. If you are a wine lover and able to spend money to enjoy some wine at home, purchasing direct from wineries can help keep these businesses going. Just be sure to check each winery’s website or Facebook page for current updates. Don’t let these challenging times prevent you from getting your hands on some delectable juice and supporting the wine industry!
$32 / bottle
This wine is 100% Sangiovese from the acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley. Aged 24 months in 50% new French Oak barrels, I noted flavors of root beer candy, anise, Italian plum, and raspberry. It’s been dubbed the “yeah, sure” wine by tasting room staff because it’s what they say whenever asked if they want to open a bottle. In addition to being my recommended pour with pasta marinara, they suggest pairing it with everything from pho to tikka masala. The Foundry Vineyards Sangiovese is a delightfully juicy, lively wine.
$38 / bottle
This wine is 91% Sangiovese and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet brings some chocolate to the party, making it a deeper, moodier style. In fact, if Cabernet Sauvignon is usually your go-to wine, this could be the gateway to other varieties. The Patterson Cellars Sangiovese is an ideal selection for those who appreciate a full bodied red wine.
$55 / bottle
A lighter option, this Washington State example is crafted with fruit from the winery’s estate as well as McKinley Springs Vineyard. I picked up notes of leather and vibrant strawberry on the palate. This sassy Nebbiolo from Cascade Cliffs is delightfully approachable. I also couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of their Dolcetto.
If you’re looking for an alternative to pasta marinara, check out my easy pairing for puttanesca sauce and red wine.