We eat a lot of pasta. Pushed for time and need a quick meal? Pasta. Only have an onion, one clove of garlic and a tin of chopped tomatoes? Pasta. It even has its own aisle in the supermarket. Yes we eat a lot of pasta. So ensure your pasta dishes are all they can be and pair them with the right beer.
Pasta and beer share ingredients, both are made with grain and water, but it's the sauce that enlivens a pasta dish. From basic tomato to spicy meat or pesto, you can daub all manner of delicious dressings upon your blank pasta canvas, but putting the right beer into the mix really brings the dish to life.
Pasta in a standard tomato sauce, for example, has a balance of light and heavy flavours so a beer offering similar is what's needed. Dark lagers, such as Brooklyn Brewery's, offer roasted and sweet malts to complement the sauce and carbonation that will cleanse the palate.
The classic pasta dish spaghetti carbonara asks all sorts of interesting beer pairing questions. With eggs, cheese, bacon, cream and black pepper (not to mention spaghetti) all having key roles in this play of flavours, which beer gets top billing? Play to its strengths and complement the creamy richness with a stout, such as Coniston's Special Oatmeal Stout. The beers sweetness will also highlight the creamy texture. You could even add some refreshing citrus, which is exactly what we did for Laura at the recent Beer Club:
After the creamy heaviness of carbonara let's lighten up with a herby pesto sauce. A Belgian ale such as Orval fits the bill with herbal and spicy notes complementing those in the pesto, and a slight sweetness to lift the basil, cheese and pine nuts.
If your pasta pick leans heavily on cheese laden sauce for its flavour opt for a pale ale, where the fruitiness in the beer will spike similar in the cheese and the balancing bitterness will cut through the texture like a knife through, er, cheese.
Or you could try an amber ale such as Thornbridge's Sequouia. They have bitterness to cut through the acidity of the tomato while the toffee and caramel sweetness from the malt highlights the subtle sweetness of the sauce. Yum.
Leaving out lasagne from a blog post about beer and pasta would be like forgetting the meat filling of the dish itself. Work with its heaviness by opting for a beer with depth but also one with the versatility to cleanse the palate through its carbonation. Andy now knows what to go for:
The next time you're in the supermarket gathering the ingredients for your favourite pasta meal make sure you do it justice and pair it with the right beer. The coming together of the flavours in the dish and the beer will ensure it's a meal to savour.
If you're not sure which beer to choose we can help. Use Beermatch for an immediate beer pairing. Or use Beer Explorer, our interactive guide to the best beers in Britain where you can search for beers by flavour, style, name and brewery.