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.
Which Wine Goes With Lasagna?
Traditional lasagna has a variety of flavors in it, including red sauce, pasta, bechamel, ricotta or cottage cheese, and occasionally beef. A medium-bodied, juicy red wine with decent acidity can cut through the layers of the lasagna like a fork. Try a Barbera, Gamay, Beaujolais, or Sangiovese. If you prefer one of the non-traditional lasagna styles, you may need to stray from classic Italian red wine.
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 Wine Goes with Which Lasagna Style?
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.
More Details on Wine Body: WHAT IS WINE BODY AND HOW CAN YOU DESCRIBE IT?
With these rules in mind, let’s discuss some common lasagna styles and the wines that match them.
Lasagna Al Forno and Wine
Traditional lasagna is called Lasagna Al Forno. It contains meat sauce, layers of pasta, ricotta, mozzarella cheese, and Italian seasonings such as oregano and basil. To celebrate the culture of this dish, we recommend traditional Italian red wines, such as Chianti or other Sangiovese wines. Alternatively, a Spanish Rioja is a nice match.
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.
If you feel like splurging for a super special dinner, try a Gran Selezione wine such as 2016 Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘vigna Del Campannino’. These wines are the best of the best of the Tuscany region. Typically, they are significantly more expensive than regular Chiantis, but they’re absolutely worth the money.
Spinach Lasagna and Wine
The idea behind spinach lasagna is to replace the meat 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 or Gavi. These wines have significant levels of acidity and medium bodies, but they’re low in tannins compared to reds.
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 aren’t aware 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).
If your recipe is heavy on the mushroom side, consider a lighter-bodied and low-tannin red such as a Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills AVA in Oregon. It’s not the most affordable wine, but with its bright color, red fruit flavors, and elegant tannins, it’s a great match for your spinach lasagna.
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. A 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.
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.
More Details on Merlot: MERLOT – THE FRENCH ALL-ROUNDER WINE
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.
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.
Be aware of bottles under 10 USD. They’re often of minor quality and fail to represent the varietal’s qualities.
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.
Mozzarella Lasagna and Wine
Mozzarella lasagna differs from traditional lasagna in one specific aspect: It doesn’t contain ricotta or bechamel sauce and instead uses only Mozzarella. Typically, these types of lasagna still have a meat sauce or ragu, which provide the flavor you want to compliment with your wine pairing. However, if you’re open to experimenting with different wine flavors, try an Aglianico wine from Southern Italy. When young, it’s strong in tannins and acidity and has a full body. Older vintages will yield a smoother wine.
No matter what style of lasagna you hope to make or order at your next dinner, there’s a wine that will pair beautifully. With a little upfront research, you can make sure that your wine compliments and accentuates your meal’s flavor profile.