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Lasagna Con Vino – Perfectly Paired

Lasagna is one of the most popular oven-baked delights of the modern world. No matter how hard we try to manipulate it, adjust it, empower it and Americanize it,

the fact remains that this is one powerfully traditional southern Italian dish, and it deserves to be respected and enjoyed as such.

Because of the different lasagna variations created over the years, finding the right wines with which to pair them can prove to be a bit of a challenge. So, like those old lessons of not judging a book by its cover, let us not judge the lasagna simply by the ribbons of pasta but by what is inside. And, since lasagna was created as a peasant dish, let’s stick with wines that we modern peasants can easily afford. How does less than $20 a bottle sound?


Simple, elegant and meatless, the traditional lasagna originated in southern Italy and is made by interlacing ribbons of pasta with layers of sauce; usually a simple tomato ragù, creamy bechamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The tomato sauce can be naturally acidic, so choose a wine that balances, and it doesn’t have to be Italian. A fruit-forward grenache from a Rhone Valley AOC (M. Chapoutier, Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche Rouge, $15) or Central California zinfandel (Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel, $18) pair and balance perfectly.


Add a little meat to the equation, and you have lasagna Bolognese. Italians tend to use sauteed mixtures of beef, veal and pork with onions and garlic, while nontraditionalists will add different cream sauces and ricotta with crab, lobster or other juicy white fish. Classic Bolognese screams for sangiovese (Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti, $13) or one of the many fabulous Super-Tuscans (Antinori Santa Cristina Toscana, $20). The others — call them neo-classical if you like — pair beautifully with zesty whites like Sauvignon Blanc to balance the richness of the cream (Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc, $18).


Well, again it depends on what’s inside. Roasted vegetable recipes, including peppers, zucchini and mushrooms would call for a Bordeaux (Château Bonnet Rouge, $18) or a medium-bodied Cabernet (Beringer Founder’s Estate, $12). Spinach, kale or chard creations pair nicely with Northern Italian white wines that are able to add mouthwatering acidity to the greens (Folonari Pinot Grigio, $10), where a butternut squash or pumpkin lasagna demands an oaky Chardonnay (Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, $12) or Viognier (Domaine Triennes Saint Fleur, $15) to introduce that vanilla and almost brown sugar quality to the dish.

Want to have some real fun? Crank out this asparagus, pancetta and sun-dried-tomato lasagna from our friend Giada over at the Food Network, and pop a cork of some Pouilly Fumé from France’s Loire Valley, or better yet, the 2011 Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc ($19) from Marlborough. The cool thing about tradition is how easy it is to start a new one.


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