It originates from Italy and is a layered pasta dish with various ingredients baked to perfection. While it’s often attributed to the region of Emilia-Romagna, its exact birthplace is a subject of debate, with multiple regions claiming it as their own. The dish’s popularity has evolved into countless variants across Italy and beyond.
A typical lasagna comprises several key ingredients contributing to its rich and hearty character. The first is the pasta, which is typically broad, flat, and cooked to an al dente texture. This pasta is layered with a meat-based sauce, often a ragu made with ground beef, pork, or a combination.
The next layer is cheese, traditionally mozzarella, ricotta, or Parmigiano-Reggiano. The dish is often enhanced with a tomato sauce, adding a vibrant tanginess. Some variations incorporate a bechamel sauce, a creamy, roux-based sauce that brings a velvety richness to the dish.
The beauty of this dish lies in its versatility, with regional variations adding exciting twists to the traditional lasagnarecipe.
Bologneseis arguably the most well-known variant. This hearty dish layers pasta with a rich ragu (meat and tomato sauce) and bechamel sauce, all topped with a generous helping of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pestois a favorite from Liguria, where basil grows in abundance. It features layers of pasta, basil pesto, potatoes, and green beans, offering a lighter, fresher take on the classic.
Mushrooms are substituted for the traditional meat sauce with a mixture of sautéed mushrooms and cheese, offering an earthy and delectable flavor profile.
White (Lasagna Bianca) omits the tomato sauce, focusing instead on a luxurious blend of bechamel, cheese, and sometimes white meat like chicken or seafood.
Understanding What Wine Goes With Lasagna
Pairing takes on an interesting dynamic in lasagna, a dish rich in flavors, textures, and many flavors. The aim is to choose a wine that stands up to the ingredients or contrasts its flavors, enriching the overall taste and experience.
The principle of an ideal wine and food pairing rests on balance. Neither overpower nor underwhelm each other. To achieve this, there here are two methods: complementing and contrasting.
Complementary pairing involves choosing a wine with similar flavors and characteristics, like a full-bodied red with a meaty lasagna. In contrast, contrasting pairing aims to balance the flavors, like pairing a tangy white wine with a creamy, cheesy lasagna bianca to cut through its richness.
Body: This refers to the weight or fullness of the wine, which can range from light to full-bodied. A full-bodied wine such as an Italian Barolo or a robust Zinfandel can stand up to a rich, meaty lasagna, while a light-bodied wine like Pinot Grigio may pair better with a vegetable or pesto lasagna.
Acidity: Wines with high acidity can cut through rich, fatty dishes and refresh the palate, making them excellent companions for creamy or cheesy lasagna.
Tannin: Found primarily in red wines, tannins can feel astringent or dry in the mouth. They pair well with dishes high in protein and fat, such as the Bolognese sauce, as they can balance the richness.
Sweetness: While not a common choice for lasagna, a slightly sweet wine could contrast with a spicy or tangy lasagna variation. For example. A sweet Riesling, particularly one with a hint of minerality, may not be the first wine that comes to mind, but the sweetness can complement the vegetables’ natural sweetness, while its high acidity can balance the lasagna’s richness.
Best Wines to Pair with Classic Lasagna Bolognese
Italian Red Wines
Italian wines are excellent places to start when pairing wine with classic meat lasagna due to their natural compatibility with traditional Italian dishes.
For instance, Sangiovese is a beautiful match. Sangiovese-based wines, like Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino, are renowned for their high acidity and medium to high tannin levels. These characteristics enable them to beautifully balance a meat lasagna’s rich, hearty nature. The wine’s acidity cuts through the fat, while the tannins are smoothed out by the protein and cheese, allowing the fruit flavors to shine.
Barbera also pairs remarkably well with meat lasagna. From Piedmont, Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba, are known for their juicy acidity and notes of cherry and plum, providing a delightful contrast to the robust flavors of the dish.
New World Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon: This brings full-bodied richness, pronounced tannins, and dark fruit flavors. Pairing it with a meaty, cheese-ladenlasagna Bolognese allows its robust character to shine without overpowering the dish.
Zinfandel: Another native of California, it offers high alcohol content, ripe fruit flavors, and spice. This full-bodied wine can hold its own against traditional meat lasagna’s bold flavors while providing a pleasant contrast.
Chardonnay: A full-bodied, oaked Chardonnay can be an excellent choice for white or seafood lasagna. It can balance the creaminess with its creamy mouthfeel and notes of butter, vanilla, and ripe tropical fruit.
Shiraz (Syrah): This is a powerful, full-bodied red wine. With high tannin levels and flavors of dark fruit, spice, and sometimes smoked meat, it can easily stand up to a hearty, meat-based lasagna, echoing the rich, savory notes in the dish.
Semillon: Australia’s Hunter Valley is famous for its Semillon, a medium to full-bodied white wine that offers high acidity, citrusy notes, and often a hint of lanolin or wax. It can be a refreshing partner to a creamy seafood or vegetablelasagna, balancing the richness and enhancing the dish’s lighter flavors.
Pinotage: This is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, producing bold, earthy wines with flavors of red fruit, chocolate, and sometimes smoke. A well-balanced Pinotage can provide an interesting contrast to a mushroom lasagna, amplifying its earthy flavors.
Chenin Blanc: Known as Steen in South Africa, Chenin Blanc is versatile and ranges from dry to sweet. A dry or off-dry Chenin Blanc with high acidity, flavors of apple, pear, and a touch of honey can pair beautifully with a vegetable or white lasagna, balancing its richness while complementing its flavors.
Malbec: This is known for its dark fruit flavors, soft tannins, and notes of chocolate and spice. Its full body and intense flavor profile matches a robust meat lasagna, with the wine’s fruit and spice notes providing a delicious counterpoint to the dish’s savory richness.
Torrontés: This fragrant, high-acid white grape is Argentina’s most widely planted white variety. Offering floral aromatics and crisp, citrusy flavors, it can be a pleasant match for a pesto or seafoodlasagna, offering brightness and lift to these lighter variations.
Carmenère: Known as the “lost grape of Bordeaux,” it offers medium-bodied, soft-tannin wines with flavors of black cherry, green pepper, and sometimes a hint of smoke, making it an interesting match for a vegetable or mushroom lasagna.
Sauvignon Blanc: This Chilean wine is known for its racy acidity, bright citrus flavors, and often a distinctive jalapeño note. This makes it a refreshing partner to seafood or white lasagna, cutting through the richness while adding an intriguing flavor contrast.
Best Wine Pairings for Different Types of Lasagna
A classiclasagna, layered with a rich, meaty sauce and a blend of creamy cheeses, calls for a wine that can hold its own against such a robust dish. Full-bodied red wines, such as a hearty Italian Barolo or an Australian Shiraz, provide a powerful fruit presence, high tannin levels, and an intensity that matches well with the complex flavors.
An Italian Chianti Classico or a Tuscan Sangiovese could be perfect choices. These are known for their high acidity and medium tannins, which can cut through the rich flavors of the dish, while their dark fruit and tomato leaf notes harmonize beautifully with the meaty sauce and tomato components in the lasagna.
Whites are generally your best bet for a seafood lasagna laden with delicate fish, creamy sauce, and often a hint of citrus or herbs. Italian Vermentino, known for its bright acidity and subtle minerality, complements the flavors without overpowering them.
Another Italian wine, Verdicchio, is known for its balanced acidity, subtle salinity, and citrus notes. It will perfectly complement the seafood without overpowering it.
Similarly, a light, unoaked Chardonnay could offer refreshing citrus and apple notes, which work well with the seafood’s delicate flavors, enhancing them rather than overwhelming them.
Alternatively, a light rosé with fresh red fruit notes could provide a pleasing counterpoint without overpowering the dish.
Perhaps featuring a medley of vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and spinach, it offers a more delicate flavor profile.
A light to medium-bodied white such as Sauvignon Blanc or an Italian Vermentino would be a wonderful choice. They provide high acidity that can cut through the cheese, along with crisp, herbaceous, and fruit notes that can contrast and enhance the fresh flavors of the vegetables.
Additionally, a white, such as a dry Chenin Blanc, can be a perfect match as it has the freshness to balance the vegetable flavors and enough complexity to stand up to the cheese and bechamel sauce.
For a rosé pairing, seek wines that balance freshness and structure, like a Provencal rosé.
This has distinctive herbal flavors and offers a unique pairing challenge. With its notable acidity and characteristic green notes of herbs, grass, gooseberries, and sometimes bell pepper, Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent match. It not only complements the herbal nature of the pesto, but its zesty acidity also helps to balance the rich cheese.
Pinot Grigio is also a good choice with its light to medium body, crisp acidity, and green apple, pear, and citrus flavors. Its bright, crisp character aligns well with the pesto’s herbal and garlic elements, and it can balance the richness of the cheese while offering a refreshingly clean finish.
Alternatively, consider a rosé, particularly those made from Sangiovese or Grenache, which can balance the pesto’s richness while complementing its herbal notes.
Mushroom lasagna, earthy and rich, requires a wine complementing its unique flavor profile. A medium-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Barbera, with light tannins, high acidity, and earthy notes, can mirror the flavors in the dish. Its red fruit flavors also provide a nice counterbalance to the umami-rich mushrooms.
White lasagna,often layered with creamy bechamel sauce, cheese, and perhaps chicken or vegetables, pairs beautifully with a rich, oaked Chardonnay. The wine’s full body and creamy mouthfeel match the dish’s texture, while its flavors of apple, butter, and vanilla, underlined by the touch of oak, harmonize with the dish’s creamy, cheesy goodness.
You could try rosé with more body and complexity, such as those from the Rhone region or Bandol, which have the necessary structure to balance the dish’s creaminess.
Unconvention Wines to Go with Lasagna
If you want to explore something unconventional, a sparkling red like Lambrusco from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region can be a surprisingly good partner for a cheesylasagna.
Lambrusco, with its bright acidity, effervescence, and fruity character, can cut through the richness of the cheese, providing a palate-cleansing effect. Its light sparkle adds a touch of festivity and lightness to the dish, making each bitefeel fresh and exciting.
Tips for Perfect Wine Pairing
Remember, there’s no “one size fits all” regarding wine and food pairing. So don’t be afraid to experiment! Try different types of wines with your favorite lasagna. You might find that a wine you’d never considered makes a fantastic match. Or you might discover that the “classic” pairings aren’t your favorite. That’s the beauty of wine pairing – it’s a personal journey and all about finding what you love.
How you serve your wine and lasagna can also impact your enjoyment. In general, red wines should be served slightly below room temperature, around 60-65°F (15-18°C), whilewhitesare best served chilled, around 49-55°F (9-12°C).
As for the lasagna, serve it warm but not too hot. If it’s too hot, it could overwhelm your palate and make the wine seem bland.
A Selection of Wine to Pair With Lasagna
Finding the right bottle of wine for lasagna needn’t break the bank or require a sommelier’s credentials. From affordably priced everyday wines to the more premium selections for special occasions, we’ve compiled a list to suit various budgets. We hope you enjoy them.