The Best Wines To Pair With Italian Comfort Food

Comforts foods are heartwarming because they bridge rich, satisfying flavors with memories of eating a dish prepared by a loved one or enjoyed in an ideal moment. When it comes to some of our favorite ways to fill up, Italian comfort food is at the top. Digging into a plate piled high with pasta, or biting into a slice of pizza as the stretchy cheese mingles with sweet tomato sauce is hard to beat.

We won't deny that there are incredible comfort foods from around the world, but Italian dishes tend to pair especially well with wine, and locally, it is common to have a bottle on the table during meals. Much like dishes we love, it's always exciting to find a reliable bottle of wine that's guaranteed to be a good choice. Here are the best wines to pair with familiar Italian comfort food favorites.

Margherita pizza

A classic Margherita pizza may very well be the food equivalent of a hug. The crust offers just the right chewy texture, and the red sauce and mozzarella cheese are meant to be. Add a hint of fresh basil and lightly charred edges and we're set. There's something deliciously unassuming about the simple ingredients that quickly satisfies a craving.

Rosé is often considered a fun and unpretentious wine, but for those in the know, the pink wine is multifaceted and versatile. The Languedoc region in Southern France benefits from plenty of sunny days and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in ripe grapes and wines brimming with flavor. Local rosés are typically made with blends of grapes, and showcase flavors of red fruit, stone fruit, and flowers with a bright palate. Pick up a bottle of Domaine Lafage Miraflors rosé to wash down every bite of Margherita.


Comfort foods regularly feature rich creamy textures, and a prime example is carbonara. While authentic recipes don't contain cream or butter, the combination of eggs and cheese delivers plenty of flavor and a thick consistency. Add in fried cubes of guanciale (similar to pancetta) and black pepper, then combine the sauce with pasta and the savory feast is complete. While spaghetti and linguine are common matches, arguably the best type of pasta for carbonara is bucatini, which is distinguished by its hollow interior.

This decadent meal calls for a palate cleanser, but some mousse and structure will stand up to the fatty pork. You may think that sparkling rosé is relegated to garden parties, but it's actually one of the most flexible wines to pair with food. Try Tissot-Maire Crémant de Jura brut rosé for an elegant, floral, and subtly fruity match for your plate of carbonara.

Gnocchi alla Genovese

There's something inherently comforting about the pillowy consistency of gnocchi. Traditionally made with potatoes, the soft dumplings are commonly eaten with sauce much like pasta dishes. Gnocchi alla Genovese is tossed in pesto, which if authentic is made with basil from Genoa, hence the suffix to indicate its place of origin.

The herb-heavy sauce pairs well with a similarly herbaceous wine. Grüner Veltliner is Austria's darling white grape, and wine writer Jancis Robinson explains that its name means green grape from Veltlin (a local village). There's something reassuringly right about pairing it with green food. Citrus flavors, a mineral crispness, and a hint of white pepper make this refreshing wine a winner. Pour yourself a glass of Laurenz V. Singing grüner veltliner, named because it "'sings' on your palate."


Rice often takes the backseat to pasta in Italian dishes, but risotto is a definite exception. The creamy endlessly customizable dish is about as comforting as it gets. Slow-cooked short-grain rice (arborio is common) is simmered with broth and wine, releasing starches. While the grains of rice remain distinct, they come together in a sticky mass that can be seasoned to your liking. Risotto alla Milanese gets its flavor and color from saffron, and variations with Parmesan, seafood, and squash are typical.

As far as rich grain-based meals go, risotto is up there, so we're contrasting it with a brightly acidic wine. Riesling ranges from sweet to bracingly dry, but the floral, citrus, and stonefruit aromas remain present regardless. Pair it with classic styles of risotto for a fragrant palate cleanser. Our top choice is Trimbach riesling, a fruity well-balanced example of the varietal.


Lasagna ticks all the comfort food boxes with its layers of cheese, sauce, carbs, and meat. Traditional styles from Bologna stick with sheets of pasta, ragù with a touch of tomato sauce, and béchamel, topped with Parmesan. We're pretty satisfied with that iconic combo but of course, vegetables, ricotta, mozzarella, pesto, squash, and lentils are some of the endless ways you can customize a classic lasagna recipe to turn it into your ultimate meal.

Gamay wines come in lots of styles, from fruity and bubblegum-tasting nouveaus to more complex Beaujolais Crus. With its fruit-forward aromas and smooth mouthfeel, it's just as lovable as lasagna. Mommessin Côte-de-Brouilly is a great mid-level option that highlights flavors of ripe black fruits with subtle spice.

Cotoletta alla Milanese

If you're a fan of breaded fried food, make it Italian with cotoletta alla Milanese. According to True Italian, this quintessential Milanese dish dates back to the 12th century (not to be confused with the Wiener schnitzel which came a few centuries later). Thick bone-in veal chops are breaded then pan-fried in butter for a crispy result. A squeeze of lemon juice and a side of fries or salad complete the hearty meal.

To pair with this delightfully crispy dish, an unoaked chardonnay is our top choice for a refreshing drink. Saracina unoaked chardonnay from California's Mendocino county is all about crisp fresh flavors. Stone fruit and tree fruit notes pair with a citrusy kick for a delightfully invigorating match to the pan-fried dish.

Pasta with ragù

Although Bolognese sauce might be your go-to Italian dinner, it's worth knowing that the term refers to the style of ragù from Bologna. There are endless types of ragù from around the country, but the American favorite traditionally consists of beef, pancetta, carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes, red wine, and milk. It might not be the way you make it, but the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (the authority on Italian cuisine) attests this is the official recipe. Pair it with spaghetti or tagliatelle (similar to fettuccine) and dig into a warm plate of meat and carbs.

This classic meat-based pasta sauce is a great foundation for an earthy medium-full-bodied wine. Southern Rhône reds offer a range of flavors thanks to the wide variety of permitted grapes. Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes-du-Rhône is powerful on the palate but light on the finish, with dark berry, violet, and licorice aromas adding plenty of pep to match the hearty dish.


If you think focaccia is just a thick piece of bread, you'll want to clue into the fact that you can dress it up. Regional styles provide their own special touch, and the yeasted flatbread can be as simple as a drizzle of olive oil with a sprinkle of salt or garnished with sliced vegetables, herbs, cheese, or meat. To double up on starchy comforts, potato focaccia with fresh rosemary is an obvious choice.

Enjoy a high-low pairing by serving this basic bread with a bottle of Champagne. If you want to keep the costs low, pick up a sparkling alternative, but since your meal will mostly consist of potatoes and flour, it might be worth the splurge for the real deal. Champagne Laherte Frères Brut Ultradition showcases the main grapes of the region, producing an elegant result brimming with flavors of dried fruit, orange blossom, lemon peel, and toast.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Any meat lover is usually  up for steak, and the version from Florence deserves mention. Bistecca alla Fiorentina features a thick T-bone steak grilled with very simple seasoning, a confirmation that less is often more. Some salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly cracked pepper complement the juicy meat which is meant to be cooked rare.

Plenty of wines fare well with grilled meat, but for an option that stands out, Valpolicella Ripasso is our choice. The winemaking process is two-fold: Wine is made and consequently pressed with dried grapes leftover from the production of a more potent wine called Amarone. The result is richly flavored, with complex layered fruit aromas that match the steak's umami taste. Try a bottle of Farina Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore for a sensory treat.

Osso buco

If you're hoping to impress your guests with a soul-warming meal, look no further than osso buco. The name translates to bone with a hole since veal shanks are served bone-in, infusing the dish with flavor from the marrow. The meat component stays the same, however, it can be prepared in various styles.

Alla Milanese consists of slow-cooked onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and wine for the base. Then, the shanks are lightly floured then simmer in the sauce until they fall off the bone. The final dish is garnished with gremolata, a mixture of lemon peel, parsley, anchovies, and garlic which make the flavors pop.

This rich savory meal pairs well with a wine that is balanced and refined, yet potent. Nebbiolo fits the bill, with its characteristic aromas of tar and roses. If you've got a wine cellar filled with aged Barolo, by all means, pop open a bottle. For a more affordable and ready-to-drink option, Giovanni Rosso Langhe DOC Nebbiolo offers the goods.


Polenta is a corn-meal dish that can be an unappealing sludge when done wrong but makes you question every other starch when done right. In the latter case, the creamy corn dish melts in your mouth with each bite. The starchy base is a side for meat dishes or the main course itself with a vegetable or meat-based sauce or gravy. If you're just looking for pure basic comfort food, butter and cheese will do the trick. 

Zweigelt wines offer a smooth and silky mouthfeel with deep flavors of cherries, herbs, and spices. The balanced acidity makes it a great pairing with a creamy plate of polenta. Pick up a bottle of Heinrich zweigelt for a juicy sippable red to pair with the hearty dish.

Chicken cacciatore

There are boring chicken dishes and then there's chicken cacciatore. Originally a hearty meal made with what was immediately available, the preparation has since developed with regional variations. The first recipes consisted of chicken braised with garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and wine (via Southern Italian versions likely introduced tomatoes to the mix, and other renditions include root vegetables, anchovies, capers, and lemon.

This savory chicken stew originally started as a rustic country dish, and to match the vibe, we're pairing it with pinot noir. The popular grape takes on both fruity and earthy aromas, which complement and contrast the savory recipe. Apaltagua Reserva pinot noir is bright with red fruits, a gentle oak presence, and silky tannins.

Eggplant parmigiana

Chances are your local Italian restaurant serves eggplant Parmigiana (aka Parmesan), and it's no secret that this saucy cheesy dish wins hearts all over. Fried eggplant slices are layered with tomato sauce and cheese in this filling dish. While you might assume that Parmesan is the number one choice, the origin of the name is likely unrelated to the famous cheese, as La Cucina Italiana reports. It still works delightfully, but you can swap it out for Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano cheese, and mozzarella is always welcome.

Earthy eggplants and a savory sauce deserve a complex wine that won't overpower your palate. Syrah offers a range of flavors depending on its origin, yet its robust presence is hard to miss. Field Recordings Wonderwall is made from syrah from California Central Coast vineyards. Hearty flavors and a full body make it shine, with aromas of dark plums, roasted meat, olives, and white pepper on the palate.

Spaghetti alle vongole

Although lots of comfort foods are heavy on starch, cheese, and meat, that's not to say seafood doesn't have a place. Spaghetti alle vongole is common in Naples and along the southern Italian coast, thanks to the local abundance of clams. The recipe is simple and highlights the ingredients: clams, olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, parsley, and pasta. Italy Magazine notes that some areas insist on adding tomato sauce or cherry tomatoes, and alternative long strands of pasta can be used instead of spaghetti.

This briny dish from the sea fares well with a wine of a similar origin. Muscadet is produced on France's Atlantic coast, and the coastal influence is evident in every sip. Domaine de l'Ecu Granite Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine is a crisp, briny, citrusy wine, with fruity mineral aromas and a layered mouthfeel.

Tortellini en brodo

You might be accustomed to eating a saucy plate of tortellini, but one of its traditional (and arguably most belly-warming) preparations is as a soup. Small tortellini stuffed with pork and Parmesan seasoned with nutmeg are served in broth (en brodo). Aside from being a great way to stay warm in cooler months, the soup is also commonly served at Christmas.

This dish balances delicate and rich flavors, and a bright complex wine is an ideal match. Soave wines are made with garganega grapes and prove that white wines can walk the line between lighter and weightier styles. Pieropan Soave Classico has a notable acidity, countered by soft aromas of almonds, marzipan, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and a mineral streak.

Veal scallopini

Veal scallopini actually has French roots, stemming from the French word escalope meaning a cutlet. The meat is flattened with a pounder, dusted with flour, and lightly fried, then finished off in a wine or cream-based sauce. Mushrooms, artichoke, and assorted vegetables round out this comforting meal, and it's commonly served along with potatoes.

Cream and a delicate meat preparation call for a rich white wine. Pinot gris from Alsace, France, is a long stretch from its citrusy counterparts in Northern Italy, displaying a full body and heartier flavors. Willm pinot gris Reserve is our top choice with scallopini. The ripe fruit, honey, and spice aromas mingle in this off-dry wine, while the gentle acidity ties it all together.

Chicken Marsala

Although Marsala is both a place and fortified wine in Sicily, the dish's origins are closer to home. Fortunato Nicotra, a Sicilian chef in NYC, tells Vinepair that chicken (and veal) Marsala is an Italian-American creation. The chicken is first pan-fried, then caramelized onions and mushrooms cook with Marsala and veal stock, and the sauce is combined with the cooked chicken. Served with pasta, rice, or vegetables, the wine-flavored dish is a hit even if it isn't totally authentic.

To cut through the rich creamy dish, a high-acid wine is your best bet. Balancing aromatics and honeyed fruit flavors with a crisp palate, chenin blanc is our choice. South Africa is a top producer, and Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve chenin blanc does the grape justice. Fruit, subtle oak, and vanilla highlight the wine in the dish while clearing your palate between each hearty bite.

Spaghetti and meatballs

You might think it's Italian night when spaghetti and meatballs grace the dinner table, but the seemingly classic dish isn't so traditional. While polpette — the Italian equivalent of meatballs — are enjoyed in various forms, they're not traditionally served with marinara sauce and pasta.

Smithsonian Magazine reveals that when Italians immigrated to the U.S., they had access to far more meat. Meatballs that previously had a decent ratio of breadcrumbs and binders quickly became bigger and meatier. Canned tomatoes and spaghetti were easily available in stores, and the iconic trio came to be.

Pair this Italian-American icon with primitivo, an Italian grape that is almost genetically identical to zinfandel (via Wine Spectator). Tormaresca Torcicoda is a stellar example, with intense red and black fruit aromas, paired with spice, licorice, vanilla, and tobacco. The tannins stand up to the meaty sauce while remaining smooth and balanced.

Fettuccine Alfredo

The original Roman version of this decadent pasta dish (created by Alfredo Di Lelio) was made with fettuccine, butter, and Parmesan (via Forbes). Unfortunately, when it made its way to the U.S., the proper ingredients were not available and the alternatives were not up to par with those in Italy. So, heavy cream and flour were substituted to build up the rich sauce, and parsley was added in for good measure. Nevertheless, American Alfredo definitely ticks the comfort food box.

We love pairing creamy dishes with crisp zesty wines to prolong the sensory feast. Chablis wines are made in the French region of the same name using chardonnay grapes. Thanks to cool climates, limestone soils, and winemaking techniques, they offer a wildly different flavor profile than rich oaky styles. William Fèvre Chablis is a classic example, with citrus, stone fruit, and floral notes.

Fried calamari

Fried calamari is easily one of the best appetizers if you're in the mood for a crispy salty snack. While the name is Italian, the lightly battered seafood is common across the Mediterranean. In Southern Italy, the fried rings and tentacles are often included in fritto misto, a mix of fried foods. We're happy sticking to the delightful contrast of chewy calamari with a crispy fried shell, perhaps with a side of marinara sauce and lemon.

Washing down fried food with bubbles is a winning pairing when it comes to fast food, and Cava and fried calamari follow suit. The super affordable Spanish sparkler combines bready aromas with fruit and bright acidity, pairing wonderfully with the salty seafood dish. Bodegas Pinord Dibón brut reserva is as easy to love as the popular appetizer.


Even though tiramisu is on Italian menus all over, its source is hard to pinpoint. According to the Accademia del Tiramisù, the dessert was developed in a brothel to be used as an aphrodisiac. Origin stories aside, the layered treat is made with mascarpone, egg yolks, sugar, ladyfingers, coffee, and cocoa powder. Other classic tiramisu recipes include cream, and Marsala wine typically makes an appearance too.

Sweets and dessert wines work well together, so we're pairing this creamy coffee chocolate preparation with vin santo, a Tuscan specialty. The wine is made using grapes that have been dried out to heighten the concentration of sugar. Il Poggione vin santo is a sure bet, showcasing dried apricot, almond, and honey aromas, that will balance out the bitter coffee.