Pasta Puttanesca pairs best acidic and earthy notes red wines like Pinot Noir, Chianti Classico, Primitivo, Beaujolais Cru, Barbera and Nero d’Avola.  Loaded with garlic, olives, anchovies, crushed red peppers, tomatoes and capers, Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca is a pungent tasting dish that is humorously nicknamed ‘whore sauce’ as it smells like a sweaty brothel.  Thus, you want a red wine to hold up and complement the earthy flavours, but you also want that refreshing fruity acidity.

Best Wine with Pasta Puttanesca

TypeVarietalFoodRating
Red WinePinot NoirPasta Puttanesca
Red WineSangiovesePasta Puttanesca
Red WinePrimitivoPasta Puttanesca
Red WineChâteauneuf du Pape, RedPasta Puttanesca
Red WineNero d'AvolaPasta Puttanesca
Red WineNegroamaroPasta Puttanesca
Red WineChianti (DOCG) Pasta Puttanesca
Red WineVinsobresPasta Puttanesca
Red WineVernaccia di Serrapetrona Spumante, Red, DryPasta Puttanesca
Red WineZinfandelPasta Puttanesca
White WineFalanghinaPasta Puttanesca
Red WineBarbera (DOC)Pasta Puttanesca
White WineGreco di Tufo, WhitePasta Puttanesca
Red WineAlentejo, RedPasta Puttanesca
Red WineBaco NoirPasta Puttanesca

Chianti Classico & Pasta Puttanesca Pairing


Chianti Classico is an Italian red wine from Tuscany that features vibrant flavours of black and red cherries, plum, strawberries and blackberries.  You’ll be gracious for this relief as it offers a nice contrast to the pungent flavours of Pasta Puttanesca.  Chianti Classico also showcases earthier flavours that complement the bold and savoury Puttanesca sauce notes.  Licorice, leather, minerals, green olive, smoke and spice mingle perfectly with the unique flavours of the capers, anchovies, olives and garlic.

I suggest Chianti Classico over your basic Chianti because Chianti Classico must be at least 80% Sangiovese.  A high percentage of Sangiovese is critical as the grape has a high acidity that is a must with the tomatoes in your Puttanesca sauce.  When you pair a red wine higher in tannin than acidity, the red wine can come off as tasting flat and metallic.  Chianti Classico refers to the original perimeter where Chianti was produced, as the wine increased in popularity, so did the borders, so anything outside this border is referred to as Chianti.  Chianti is still a high-quality red wine, however, it can be a red wine that might be at least 70% Sangiovese.  Thus, you have to be wary with wines labelled Chianti, as you want to ensure you are buying a bottle with a higher level of Sangiovese to get the qualities that make this red wine wonderful with Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca.

Nero d’Avola & Puttanesca Sauce Pairing


Nero d’Avola is a full-bodied, dry red wine from Sicily recognized for its powerful black cherry, raspberry, blackberry preserves and plum flavours, as well as rustic notes of smoke, oregano, licorice, chocolate and tobacco.  Thus, with the bold fruity flavours, you’ll find a refreshing interlude from the pungency of the Puttanesca sauce along with the earthier flavours of the wine complementing the sweaty notes of the sauce.

Nero d’Avola is higher in tannin than acidity, so it won’t pair well with Pasta Puttanesca that features a high level of tomatoes.  The red wine does feature medium-high levels of acidity, so it shouldn’t clash with Puttanesca sauce with a moderate level of tomatoes.

You can typically find a good bottle of Nero d’Avola in the $20 range, but stay away from anything less.  When you drift into the bargain range, the focus of Nero d’Avola can shift from quality to mundane and you lose a lot of the complexity that makes this an interesting wine.

Primitivo & Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Pairing


Primitivo is the Italian equivalent as Zinfandel but features higher acidity and less alcohol, and it’s not as rich or jammy.  The higher acidity of Zinfandel ensures it won’t clash with the tomatoes in your Puttanesca sauce.  The high acidity also ensures your taste buds receive a nice little break from the pungency of the olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in the sauce.  You’ll also have the rustic and earthy flavours of bay leaf, black pepper, leather, licorice and tobacco to complement the strong flavours found in your Puttanesca sauce.

Barbera & Spicy Puttanesca Sauce Pairing


If your Puttanesca sauce is loaded with crushed red pepper flakes, the low alcohol content of Barbera makes it a wise choice to pair with your Pasta Puttanesca.  High alcohol and spicy heat do not mix well as the alcohol only fuels the burn.   Barbera, on the other hand, won’t burn, and offers refreshing notes of tart cherry and red raspberry and plum to serve up a nice contrast.  Barbera isn’t all light and fruity, and when made in a bolder style, you’ll find hints of smoke, spice, herbs, mineral, black pepper and earth that complement the pungent flavours of Pasta Puttanesca.

Barbera typically has high acidity and low tannin, so it remains tart enough to pair up with Pasta Puttanesca featuring tomatoes.  The more oak ageing the wine sees, the more tannin it will absorb from the oak, and you’ll want to keep that in mind when pairing with your Puttanesca sauce.

Barbera can range from a fun-loving red wine that is light and fruity to an oaked red wine that is bold and expensive.  The Barbera you select should be somewhere in between.  Pasta Puttanesca has bold, savoury flavours that will crush an inexpensive Barbera that is cheery and light.  Thus, you want a Barbera that has seen a bit of oak ageing.

Barbera is a wise choice as it is low in alcohol.  The more alcohol in your wine, the more you will feel that burn.  Like Chianti and Pinot Noir, Barbera is light and fruity, which helps soften the savoury and sharp flavours of the sauce.  You’ll also find that rustic herbal quality which will complement the pungent flavours in the sauce.

Pinot Noir & Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Pairing


I can already feel the change in atmospheric pressure from the hot-headed food and wine enthusiasts enraged that I’m suggesting a non-Italian red wine with a traditional Italian dish.  So many people are hung up pairing regional cuisine with regional wines, which is not a bad thing, but we now live in a global world, and there’s no harm experimenting to the wide variety of foods and wines we have available.  Furthermore, old-world Italian red wines can be confusing and aren’t available everywhere.  If you’re new to wine and live in North America, you probably have easy accessibility to Pinot Noir, and you can understand how it differs than other red wines.

Pinot Noir, while lighter-bodied, has no issue with the acidic tomatoes found in your dish.  You do run the risk of the Puttanesca sauce overwhelming your Pinot Noir, so you’ll want a Pinot Noir with bolder flavours, such as  Pinot Noir from California, Oregon or New Zealand. Pinot Noir, which is light and fruity, softens the garlic, caper, and olive flavours’ harshness. Pinot Noir’s layers also have an earthy funk to them and undertones of smoke, which makes it perfect for Pasta Puttanesca.

A good Pinot Noir will be pricey, and while you can find Pinot Noir for under $25, they are often cheaply made and full of artificial flavour. Thus, if budget is an issue, go with one of the Italian red wines mentioned above.  Never settle for low-quality Pinot Noir as you missing out on what makes this red wine so special.

And don’t worry, if you crack open a bottle of Pinot Noir to serve with Italian cuisine, no elderly Italian grandma will march out of the kitchen and slap you across the face with a wooden spoon. So sit back with and relax in good conscience, and enjoy the your Pinot Noir with Pasta Puttanesca.

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