While we spent the weekend celebrating National Dessert Day, we decided it was time to take a break from the brownies and work backwards through our meal. So we’re moving on to pasta — especially because today is National Pasta Day! Actually, the whole month of October is dedicated to pasta. So start boiling some water.
First, some pasta facts:
- Apparently the Chinese — not the Italians — are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C. So no, Marco Polo did not discover pasta. (He does get props for inventing the super fun pool hide-and-seek game!)
- Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, gets the credit for bringing “macaroni” to the United States. He also had a lifelong interest in wine. So we are big fans of TJ.
- Pasta should be cooked al dente (al-DEN-tay) — which literally means "to the tooth." So while you don’t want it too hard, don’t over boil your pasta and turn it into mush. It should be firm, but tender.
- And just because everyone thinks pasta is so fattening: A cup of cooked pasta is about 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates, less than one gram of fat and has no cholesterol.
Now, you can’t possibly have a bowl of pasta without a glass of wine. The Italian word Pasta translates to dough so think of it as a blank canvas, regardless of the shape (and there are over 600 shapes so check out this pasta dictionary!) But it all basically tastes the same.
So pair your wine to the fabulous sauces on top. You’ll notice that most of our wine suggestions are Italian because when the wine and the food are from the same region it often creates the perfect pairing.
Below are some suggestions for your favorite dishes.
Penne alla Bolognese: “Chianti…this is a no brainer!” says Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, fellow Italian and Master of Wine. Your tomato-based sauces are high in acid and often have red meat in them. So while a Chianti, a sangiovese-based wine is perfect even without the meat, you can even go with a more full-bodied Italian wine like a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or a Primitivo or Nero d’Avola, both from Sicily.
Spaghetti alla carbonara: This classic Italian dish has a rich white sauce, usually made with cream, ham or bacon, egg yolk and a ton o’ cheese (probably not on the Weight Watchers list). So you need something with acid to cut thru that sauce. Try a Ripasso-style red wine – often called a baby Amarone. If you’re looking for a white – a pinot Grigio would be perfect too
Fetticine all’ alfredo: “I love a rich buttery California Chardonnay, Chateau St. Jean ($12). Says Simoneti-Bryan and you can chat live with her about all of this on her new Twitch channel.) An oak-aged Italian Trebbiano or Chardonnay would work great too.
Aglio e olio: It’s basically pasta with garlic and olive oil — a simple classic Italian dish. “But you need to cut the oil with some fresh acidity, so pick a light crisp delicate white,” says Simonetti-Bryan. She suggests a Falanghina or Gavi, two Italian whites.
Lasagna: This big dish needs a big wine. While a Chianti would always work, you can go with a Barolo or even a Barbera. “My family makes it with sausage and ground beef, so you can go with a very rich new world wine such as Malbec or an everyday Super Tuscan,” suggests Simnetti-Bryan.
Mac and cheese: While it’s not very Italian, it’s a pasta staple in many homes (including ours) So consider a light unoaked chardonnay or smooth Chenin Blanc. And for a little fun? Try it with a Lambrusco!
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.