Baked Ziti pairs best with red wines high in acidity like Zinfandel, Chianti Classico, Barbera, Valpolicella, and Pinot Noir. Classic Baked Ziti is a pasta casserole using ground beef or Italian sausage along with Ziti pasta, cheese, and, tomato sauce which are all baked until the cheese is browned and gooey.
The acidic tomato sauce element of Baked Ziti requires acidic red wines, as wine that is heavier in tannin than acidity will clash with the tomato sauce making the wine taste flat and metallic.
Best Wine with Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti & Chianti Classico Pairing
Chianti Classico is a dry medium-bodied red wine with aromas of cherry, plum and strawberry, and is primarily made from the Sangiovese grape. The fruit flavours and acidity of Chianti are very refreshing against the dense flavours of Baked Ziti, as the acidity of the wine cleans your palate of all the dense proteins, fats and carbohydrates of your dish.
Chianti Classico also has a fair amount of tannin, and the tannin helps break down the proteins in the cheese and beef, making your Baked Ziti taste even more delicious. While we mentioned above that tannin and acidity don’t mix, Chianti Classico escapes this rule as it has equal amounts of acidity (or higher) than tannin. Thus it won’t taste flat against your Baked Ziti’s tomato sauce. When a red wine has equal amounts of tannin and acidity, we call this a balanced wine.
Chianti Classico is also earthy, peppery, smoky and herbal, which makes it taste rustic. These spicy and herbal notes complement any garlic, herbs or onions added to your Baked Ziti recipe.
Baked Ziti & California Zinfandel Pairing
Zinfandel is a red wine that pairs up with nearly everything, however, it is often put down by wine snobs who only fancy new-world wines. If Chianti Classico tastes like Italy, Zinfandel tastes like America. Fruity and acidic, Zinfandel is ketchup in a wine bottle in that it adds a touch of sweetness to whatever it touches. Zinfandel is not sweet in terms of sugar, its fruit-forward nature makes it taste sweet.
For Baked Ziti, go for an inexpensive bottle of Zinfandel that are $18 or more. Higher priced Zinfandels in the $40 and higher range will be loaded with alcohol and too loud for Baked Ziti.
Where Zinfandel really shines in this pairing is that it has a smoky flavour which complements anything baked, like baked Ziti. You’ll also get lovely notes of black pepper and spice in California Zinfandel which adds even more depth to every bite.
Baked Ziti & Valpolicella Classico Pairing
Valpolicella Classico is an inexpensive Italian red wine that is perfect with any sort of past like Baked Ziti. Black cherry, herbs, and spicy fruit dominate Valpolicella Classico, as does its high acidity. The high acidity ensures it will get along great with your plate of Baked Ziti, while the herbs and spice complement the beef.
Valpolicella Classico is meant for everyday drinking, thus it’s low in alcohol and thin in flavour. If you love bold red wines, Valpolicella Classico will not impress you. However, if you wish to quadruple your wine budget, an Amarone or Ripasso will certainly knock your socks off. These two heavy hitters are the upscale versions of Valpolicella Classico that will go great with Baked Ziti, but there are far better food pairings out there for these two red wines.
Baked Ziti & Italian Barbera Pairing
Italian Barbera, such as Barbera d’Asti or d’Alba, is a light and fruity Italian red wine that pairs up well with the meaty and tomato sauce flavours of Baked Ziti. The tangy cherry flavours of Barbera brighten up the sharpness of the tomato sauce while the herbal and earthy notes of an Italian Barbera complements any onions, garlic and herbs used in your Baked Ziti.
If you like the light and fun aspect of Beaujolais, Barbera offers a nice Italian alternative as the wines are similar. Where Beaujolais might have flavours of bubblegum or Banana that people find off-putting, Italian Barbera has an herbal or spicy edge that might not appeal to everyone. With baked Ziti, you’re often eating something that already has an herbal savouriness, thus, Barbera fits right in.
I give this three and a half stars out of five as my experience with Barbera is that it is not a crowd-pleaser. Those experienced with wine may find it too meek, and those new to wine might find it too rustic. With spicy Italian food, the rustic flavours should go unnoticed, and as an Italian food lover, I love what Barbera brings to the table.
Italian Barbera is also low in alcohol, which makes Barbera great for a lunch time dish of Baked Ziti, or for those evenings where you still want to be productive after dinner.
Baked Ziti & Pinot Noir Pairing
A new world Pinot Noir is bright with flavours of strawberry and cherry, which makes for a refreshing pairing against the dense flavours of your Baked Ziti. High in acidity, Pinot Noir keeps your mouth refreshed as it washes away all the greasy beef and baked cheese gooeyness coating your cheeks.
Pinot Noir also has a lovely earthiness that many people describes as forest floor or barnyard. This earthiness adds a touch of complexity to the Baked Ziti meat sauce.
Pinot Noir is also expensive. While you can buy inexpensive Pinot Noir, it won’t do the wine justice. Good Pinot Noir starts at least $25 a bottle, and it will taste elegant and sophisticated. Pinot Noir that is cheaper than $25 tends to be doctored with fake flavours and dyes, making the wine taste insincere and gimmicky
While Baked Ziti isn’t the most sophisticated food out there, a well-made Pinot Noir won’t turn its nose up at it, and you will certainly enjoy this pairing.