Dining Like in Italy: How to Pair Lasagna and Wine


Plate of Lasagna al Forno with Glass of Red Wine

Nothing says Italian dinner like a classic lasagna paired with the perfect wine. However, with all the different ways to make lasagna and hundreds of options for wine, it may be challenging to know which lasagna style pairs with which wine. In this article, we will discuss the best lasagne and wine pairings.

The best wine pairing for lasagna is a medium-bodied, juicy red wine like Barbera, Gamay, Beaujolais, or Sangiovese. These wines accompany traditional lasagna’s rich flavor profile coming from beef, red sauce, pasta, bechamel, and cheese superbly. And they have just the right combination of acidity, tannins, and alcohol to stand up to its creamy texture.

For other non-traditional lasagna styles, you may need to stray from classic Italian red wine. Depending on the ingredients, a lighter red or even a white wine is the right match. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the most popular lasagna and wine pairings in more detail:

But first, let us learn some details about lasagna’s history.

THE HISTORY OF LASAGNA

Lasagne is a versatile dish that can contain meat, vegetables, traditional pasta, and red as well as white sauces. Combining these ingredients in various ways can result in very different culinary experiences and also in different wine pairings.

Traditionally, lasagna is served as a main course or as a “primo piatto” (English: first course) ahead of the main meat dish. With meat, a red sauce, and cheese, it’s a rather heavy dish.

Before the infamous tomato was brought from the New World to Italy in the 16th century, the Italians made lasagna with sheets of pasta, soft cheese, spices, and a meat ragu sauce. For the sauce, they used different types of meat, such as wild boar, sausage, beef, or pork, and combined them with wine, milk, oil or butter, pancetta, carrots, onions, and celery. Eventually, they added tomatoes to the recipe.

With the rise in popularity of lasagna throughout the world, more and more variations came up in many different regions of the world. Many of them, especially vegetarian styles, are much lighter and address different preferences.

WHICH LASAGNA AND WINE PAIRINGS WORK BEST?

Like for other foods, you should always try to match the intensity and weight of the dish with the intensity (body) of the wine: Bold wines go with rich meals, and light-bodied wines pair well with light dishes. You can also prepare your pairings based on color: White wine for white meat and red wine for red meat.

With these rules in mind, let us discuss the most common lasagna and wine pairings.

Lasagna Al Forno and Wine

Traditional lasagna is called Lasagna Al Forno (English: Lasagna from the oven). It contains meat sauce, layers of pasta, ricotta, mozzarella cheese, and typical Mediterranean spices such as oregano and basil. To celebrate the culture of this dish, we recommend traditional Italian red wines, including Chianti and pure Sangiovese wines. Alternatively, a Spanish Rioja is a nice match.

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Tinto 2011

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Rioja
  • varietal: Tempranillo
  • alcohol: 13.5%

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2012

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Rioja
  • varietal: Tempranillo
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Torre de Ona by La Rioja Alta Reserva Finca Martelo 2014

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Rioja
  • varietal: Mazuelo, Tempranillo
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Especially Chianti Classico wines from the Tuscany region are good picks. These complex wines stand out with aromas of red and black fruits, earthy and herbal flavors, and notes of tobacco or licorice. With about 20 USD per bottle, they are also quite affordable:

Castellani Chianti Classico Riserva 2016

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese
  • alcohol: 13.0%

If you feel like splurging for a super special dinner, try a Gran Selezione wine. These wines are the best of the best from the Tuscany region. Typically, they are significantly more expensive than regular Chiantis, but they are absolutely worth the money and will make a great Lasagna and wine pairing:

Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2013

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdon
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Rocca delle Macie Sergio Zingarelli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2014

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • varietal: Sangiovese, Colorino
  • alcohol: 15.0%

Spinach Lasagna and Wine

If you prefer a meat-free preparation, there are some great lasagna and wine combinations for you, too. One of the most popular recipes is based on spinach.

The idea behind spinach lasagna is to replace the meat’s texture with spinach and, in some cases, mushrooms. You can make them with red as well as white sauces, but you should use a type of cheese with a more robust flavor than Mozzarella. Grana Padana is a good alternative.

For these types of dishes, try a dry Italian white wine such as a Vernaccia. These wines have medium bodies and significant acidity levels, but they are relatively low in tannins.

Plate of Spinach Lasagna
Spinach Lasagna

Choose, for instance, a bottle from the Italian Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG. These wines have crisp, zesty flavor profiles with notes of lemon and herbs. Especially in the United States, many wine lovers are unaware of them, so you can add an interesting tidbit to dinner conversation (especially if you mention the iconic towers of the city of San Gimignano, which is the wines’ home).

Toscolo Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Tuscany
  • varietal: Vernaccia
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tradizionale 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Tuscany
  • varietal: Vernaccia
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Fontaleoni Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2021

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Tuscany
  • varietal: Vernaccia
  • alcohol: 12.5%

If your recipe is heavy on the mushroom side, consider a lighter-bodied and low-tannin red such as a Pinot Noir. With its red fruit flavors and elegant tannins, it is a great match for your spinach lasagna.

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 15.0%

DuMOL Wester Reach Pinot Noir 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Chicken Lasagna and Wine

Chicken lasagna is typically a white sauce-based lasagna that is mild in flavor but very creamy and cheesy. Serve this dish with a bolder white wine like an Oaked Chardonnay from California or South America.

Staglin Chardonnay 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2017

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Vermentino is a great pairing too. It comes with flavors of white fruits and bright acidity that can cut through the creamy texture of the lasagna.

Pala Soprasole Vermentino 2021

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Sardinia
  • varietal: Vermentino
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Banfi La Pettegola Vermentino 2021

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Tuscany
  • varietal: Vermentino
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2021

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Sardinia
  • varietal: Vermentino
  • alcohol: 13.5%

If your chicken lasagna recipe happens to use a red sauce, you may consider a stronger red wine, such as the earlier mentioned Chianti or a Merlot. For the latter, consider wines from the Italian region of Südtirol. They have tremendous fruity sweetness with notes of mint and basil and a chocolate finish.

Asparagus Lasagna and Wine

Asparagus lasagnas tend to vary dramatically from the traditional preparation. They include ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes or pancetta instead of the traditional red sauce. For these lasagnas, you have to find a match for the creamy sauce or the accent flavors like the sun-dried tomatoes or pancetta rather than for the asparagus.

Asparagus Lasagna
Asparagus Lasagna

For these intense flavors, consider pairing the meal with an acidic wine to help clean the mouth after each bite. Wines such as a Pinot Grigio or a Verdicchio might do very well.

For a Pinot Grigio, try a bottle from the Italian Alto Adige DOC. These wines have flavors of ripe green fruits with creamy fullness and density. Thankfully, even high-quality Pinot Grigios are fairly priced and typically cost less than 20 USD.

Be aware of bottles under 10 USD. They are often of minor quality and fail to represent the varietal’s qualities.

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2020

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2019

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Schiopetto Pinot Grigio 2018

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Verdicchio wines that match Asparagus lasagna come, for instance, from the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG in Italy. They offer flavors of straw, apple blossom, and light spice at a reasonable price.

Garofoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Podium 2019

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Marche
  • varietal: Verdicchio
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Bucci Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi 2020

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Marche
  • varietal: Verdicchio
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Colleleva Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2021

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Marche
  • varietal: Verdicchio
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Mozzarella Lasagna and Wine

Mozzarella lasagna differs from traditional lasagna in one specific aspect: It does not contain ricotta or bechamel sauce and instead uses only Mozzarella. Typically, these types of lasagna still have a meat sauce or ragu, which provides the flavor you want to complement your wine pairing. However, if you are open to experimenting with different wine flavors, try an Aglianico wine from Southern Italy. When young, it is strong in tannins and acidity and has a full body. Older vintages will yield a smoother wine.

Fattoria La Rivolta Aglianico 2018

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Campania
  • varietal: Aglianico
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Salvatore Molettieri Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce 2010

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Campania
  • varietal: Aglianico
  • alcohol: 15.0%

Mastroberardino Redimore Aglianico 2018

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Campania
  • varietal: Aglianico
  • alcohol: 13.5%

FINAL WORDS

No matter what style of lasagna you plan to prepare or order for your next dinner, there is a wine that will pair beautifully. With a little upfront research, you will definitely find a delicious lasagna and wine pairing that pleases all of your guests. Buon appetito!

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