Pasta Puttanesca is a pungent tasting dish often referred to as ‘whore sauce’ as it smells like a brothel. Full of garlic, olives, anchovies, crushed red peppers, tomatoes and capers, Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca pairs best with red wines with plenty of acidity and earthy notes like Pinot Noir, Chianti Classico, Primitivo, Barbera and Nero d’Avola.
Chianti Classico & Pasta Puttanesca Pairing
If you do love Italian wine, the Sangiovese based Chianti is your gal to pair up with a nice warm plate of Pasta Puttanesca. Chianti has plenty of fruity flavours and acidity to swim along seamlessly with the tomato flavours found in the dish. Plus, you’ll find plenty of notes of dried herbs, smoke and tart green olives to further accentuate the dish.
Nero d’Avola & Puttanesca Sauce Pairing
Nero d’Avola is a full-bodied, dry red wine from Sicily that is known for its bold black cherry/plum driven flavours, along with rustic herbal flavours you’d expect from an Italian red wine. Balanced with acidity, Nero d’Avola will need to be aged or at least decanted before pairing up with Puttanesca as it does have a tannin bite to it. In some cases, this tannin might clash with the tomatoes in the sauce, so you’ll have to know the thresholds of Nero d’Avola or pair with a sauce that has minimal tomato flavours for best results.
Barbera & Puttanesca Sauce Pairing
If your Puttanesca sauce is loaded with crushed red pepper flakes, 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.
Primitivo & Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Pairing
Primitivo is the Italian equivalent as Zinfandel. It’s essentially the same grape, but as it’s grown in Italy, it’s not as rich or jammy as a Californian Zinfandel. Primitivo is also lower in alcohol and more acidic, which makes it delicious with the tomatoes and/or pepper flakes in the Puttanesca sauce. Warm and syrupy on the tongue, Primitivo is an easy-drinking red with plenty of plum and cherry flavours.
Pinot Noir & Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Pairing
I can hear the wine snobs already yelling at me as Pinot Noir isn’t an authentic Italian red wine, which is why I’ve listed this wine last. I get that there are traditionalists out there who must pair regional cuisine with regional wines, and good for them. For the rest of us, sometimes those traditional Italian red wines are confusing, making them difficult to figure which one to buy. Plus, Italian red wines have a rustic charm that tends to not be a crowd-pleaser.
Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is available to buy and tends to be a fan favourite. Acidic, with very little tannin, Pinot Noir has no issue with the acidic tomatoes found in your dish. Fun and fruity, Pinot Noir softens the strong blow of those sharp garlic, caper and olive flavours. You’ll also find an earthy funk hidden within Pinot Noir’s layers, along with notes of smoke, which make it splendid with Pasta Puttanesca.
And hey, don’t worry, some elderly woman won’t march out of the kitchen and bonk you with a wooden spoon if you crack open a bottle of Pinot Noir to serve with Italian cuisine.