When learning how to cook, one of the first “recipes” we typically are taught is for spaghetti.
It makes perfect sense, since preparing spaghetti is, basically, an extension of learning how to boil water. We cook the pasta in very hot water, and when making a basic tomato sauce, we place chopped pieces of tomato in a skillet, add some olive oil, pour in a little water and let the conglomeration simmer. We may add some more water and/or salt to influence the thickness and/or flavor. Simple stuff.
As we advance in our cooking skills and confidence, we’ll add other flavors to the spaghetti sauce in the form of herbs, spices and vegetables—basil, oregano, parsley, black pepper, onion, garlic. We have multiple ways to make a tomato sauce recipe our own, but it’s still the base ingredient—tomato—that defines it.
And it’s the tomato that provides the challenge when trying to pair a tomato sauce-topped plate of spaghetti with wine. Specifically, it’s the high acid level of tomatoes.
There are no absolute rules in food and wine pairing, as we learned from the book, “Red Wine With Fish.” That said, there are some cases in which tried-and-true pairings handed down through generations are tough to beat.
So, with spaghetti and tomato sauce, we give you…Chianti.
Chianti is the Italian wine made from Sangiovese, a winegrape that’s high in natural acidity. And as generations of Italians will tell you, the acid of the sauce and the acid of the wine complement each other quite nicely with their engaging “tang.”
Chianti isn’t the only wine that one can uncork with spaghetti. Other red wines with relatively high levels of acid include Pinot Noir (from California, New Zealand or Burgundy) and Gamay (particularly from the Beaujolais region of France).
But there’s always something to be said for pairing food of a region with wine of a region. And there is no more classic meal than spaghetti topped with tomato sauce, accompanied by a glass of Chianti.
Now that’s Italian!