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The food and wine of Italy grew up together. They're bound together like best friends, who speak the same lingo, know each other's secrets, and finish each other's thoughts. When they're together, they're like one. So it makes perfect sense to match regional Italian dishes with wines from the same place.

By Carl Hanson
July 29, 2020
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So let's look at some of Italy's celebrated wine producing regions—and pair up some top-rated recipes with the wonderful wines we find there.

Recipes to Pair with Wines of Tuscany

Just above Italy's midsection, above Rome's home region of Latium, we find the beautiful rugged hill country of Tuscany. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and home to several of Italy's most breathtaking cities (Florence, Sienna and Pisa), Tuscany is also the land of Sangiovese, the primary grape of violet-scented Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Chianti is an appellation within Tuscany that is itself further divided into seven sub-appellations, including Chianti Classico and Chianti Ruffino. Besides Sangiovese, Tuscany is gaining respect for wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are often blended with Sangiovese and sometimes marketed as Super Tuscans. Trebbiano is the traditional Tuscan white grape. It makes dry wines, but is often used to make Tuscany's signature dessert wine, Vin Santo, made from semi-dried grapes.

Sangiovese's refreshing acidity and nice tannins make it a terrific friend of food, with flavors and aromas of cherries and violets. Sangiovese-based wines like Chianti are classic partners with pizza and tomato-based pasta dishes. Sangiovese-based wines also pair great with grilled meats and poultry, particularly meats that are seasoned with red wine-friendly herbs like rosemary and sage. Broiled T-bone steak and wild boar are two classic regional dishes from Tuscany. Try Tuscan reds with seasonal produce and soups made with dried beans like cannelloni and toscanelli.

Favorite Red Wines of Tuscany: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (all made from Sangiovese grapes); Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot

Favorite White Wines of Tuscany: Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Tuscan style grilled steak
Bistecca alla Fiorentina | Photo by Meredith

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Tuscany:

Recipes to Pair with Wines from Abruzzi

Abruzzi is a mountainous region situated about midway up the boot on the Adriatic side of the Apennines. Its hot, dry climate favors the native red grape Montepulciano. In the hill country around northern Abruzzi, Montepulciano grapes make full-bodied, robust but smooth-drinking Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo, wines that are often peppery and spicy--making them the perfect complement to the region's sometimes spicy food. (Curiously, no Montepulciano grapes go into a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the sangiovese-based Tuscan wine noted above. In the case of Vino Nobile, the word "Montepulciano" refers only to the eponymous Tuscan town where Sangiovese, not Montepulciano grapes are primarily grown. Confusing enough?)

The crisp, refreshing white wine from Abruzzi is made from Trebbiano d'Abruzzo grapes and goes well with the seafood pulled from the waters of the Adriatic.

Montepulciano is the perfect pour to satisfy Abruzzi's robust cuisine. It pairs wonderfully with grilled lamb, rich lasagnawith spicy meat sauce and braised pork ribs. Tomatoes, olive oil, and chili peppers do very well in Abruzzi's warm climate. Saffron is also grown here. In this part of Italy, pasta is mostly dry and made from durum wheat. Pecorino is an important cheese.

Major Red Wines of Abruzzi: Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo

Major White Wines of Abruzzi: Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo

Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Lamb Chops
Try this recipe: Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Lamb Chops | Photo by Chef John

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Abruzzi:

Recipes to Pair with Sicilian Wines

Separated from the peninsula by the narrow Strait of Messina, Sicily sits at the toe of the Italian boot like a crumpled tin can being kicked out into the sea.

Grape vines have thrived on this rugged volcanic island since the Greeks first began colonizing Italy about 3,000 years ago. Grown on volcanic soils under the strong Sicilian sun, the grapes produce warm red wines and light, dry whites. Some of the best wines are grown from native varieties like the red grapes Nero d'Avola and Nerello Mascalese and from such white grapes as Grillo and Inzolia. But you will also find Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon doing well in the ancient vineyards of Sicily.

Grapes are not the only fruits that thrive in the warm Sicilian sunshine. Oranges, lemons, figs, tomatoes and eggplants also love the climate and rich volcanic soils. The waters around Sicily provide tuna, sardines, anchovies and swordfish--marvelous matches for Sicilian white wines. Dry pastas come in every shape and size in Sicily. The local olive oil is often poured over pastas and used to marinate fish. Local cheeses include the hard Pecorino Siciliano and creamy ricotta.

Favorite Red Wines of Sicily: Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Marsala, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon

Favorite White Wines of Sicily: Grillo, Inzolia, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay

Italian Grilled Eggplant with Basil and Parsley
Italian Grilled Eggplant with Basil and Parsley
| Credit: Kim's Cooking Now

More Recipes to Pair with Sicilian Wines:

Recipes to Pair with Wines from Campania

When Mount Vesuvius blew its lid in 79AD and buried the bustling city of Pompeii beneath a pile of ash, it also took down a major wine producing area. Campania's return to winemaking glory has been painfully slow. Today, however, local winemakers are combining the fruit of ancient vineyards with modern winemaking techniques to produce wines that are regaining international respect. The most important red grape grown in Campania is the native Aglianico, which makes wines like Taurasi and Falerno del Massico. The white grapes of note are Greco, an ancient Greek grape that makes dry Greco di Tufo, and Fiano, which makes Fiano di Avellino.

Campania is fertile country. Fresh fruit and vegetables thrive in the rich volcanic soils and are mainstays of the Campanian diet. The famous San Marzano plum tomatoes grow here and are featured in the region's wood-fired pizzas and calzones. This being pizza country, cheese is an important product. Goat cheese, buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone and pecorino are a few of the top cheeses. Seafood is a standout here, as well.

Favorite Red Grapes of Campania: Taurasi and Falerno del Massico (made from Aglianico grapes)

Favorite White Grapes of Campania: Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino

Ditalini with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese
Ditalini with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese | Photo by Baking Nana

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Campania:

Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Piedmont

Tucked into the mountainous northwest corner of Italy, Piedmont borders Switzerland and France and sits snuggly between the Alps and Apennines. In fact, the Italian word piemonte means "foot of the mountain." As a wine producing region, Piedmont reaches rarely rivaled heights with Barolo and Barbaresco, two world-class wines made from Nebbiolo grapes. Barolos are rich, rose-scented wines, robust and tannic, capable of long aging. Unfortunately they are often prohibitively expensive. Barbaresco, made to be drunk earlier than Barolos, can be the more affordable choice. Other important red grapes of Piedmont are Barbera and Dolcetto, represented in the sub-appellations Asti and Alba. Barbera is very versatile with food, particularly grilled meats and tomato-based sauces. Dolcetto is a round fruity wine best drunk young. The sweet sparkling white wine Asti is made here from Muscat grapes, as is the dry white Gavi, made from Cortese grapes.

Piedmont's forested foothills provide mushrooms and fragrant white truffles that add depth to risottos and pastas. Rich foods in general are wise and wonderful matches for Piedmont's robust reds. Wild game and other meats pair particularly well with earthy, full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco. Try Barbera with warm red sauces and roasted poultry.

Favorite Red Wines of Piedmont: Barolo and Barbaresco (made from Nebbiolo grapes); Gattinara; Barbera and Dolcetto.

Favorite White Wines of Piedmont: Moscato, Gavi

Risotto with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Risotto with Chanterelle Mushrooms | Photo by Meredith

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Piedmont

Recipes to Pair with Wines from the Veneto

Viewed on a map, the Veneto region looks something like a honking cartoon donkey. It borders the Adriatic Sea in Northeast Italy and runs from just west of Friuli to Verona, encompassing along the way two other famous V-named Italian cities, Vicenza and Venice. Three of the more recognizable appellations in Veneto are Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino. Soave is the most popular of Italy's white wines. Known for its easy, approachable style, Soave is made from native Garganega and Trebbiano grapes. Veneto is also the home of Prosecco, the white grape that makes relatively inexpensive but tasty sparkling wine. Amidst all of this white wine, Valpolicella and Bardolino duly represent Veneto's red wine faction, making fruity, early drinking red wines from blends of Vorvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. These same grapes are semi-dried to produce opulent Amarone della Valpolicella, a rich and wonderful wine capable of long cellaring. Veneto is also gaining a reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Seafood from the Adriatic and from the many rivers that run though Veneto is the perfect companion for the region's light and refreshing Soave white wines. Local favorite foods include Carpaccio (named after a Venetian painter), sopressata salami and Asiago cheese. Rice is particularly important to the Venetians.

Favorite Red Wines of Veneto: Valpolicella, Bardolino, Amarone della Valpolicella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Favorite White Wines of Veneto: Soave, Prosecco

Grilled Shrimp Scampi
Photo by LynnInHK

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Veneto:

Recipes to Pair with Wines from Trentino Alto-Adige

Situated just below Austria and directly above Veneto in Northeastern Italy, Trentino Alto-Adige is beautiful, rugged alpine terrain, where vines are typically grown on steep terraces. The region combines two unique provinces. Alto-Adige (also known as South Tyrol, or Sudtirol to the area's considerable German-speaking population) is cool-climate country that produces crisp Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay plus aromatic whites like Veltliner and Gewürztraminer (Traminer is a local village). To the south, Trentino has a more typically Italian character, though French varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are favored here. Trentino produces more Chardonnay than any region in Italy. It is also a stronghold for sparkling wines that follow the Champagne method of production.

As you might expect from an area that combines Italian with Germanic cultures, Trentino Alto-Adige has developed a unique regional cuisine. Here you will find unmistakably German-influenced dishes (wursts, sauerbraten, cabbage and dumplings) alongside familiar northern Italian favorites like polenta (often baked with sausage), gnocchi and pastas.

Favorite Wines of Trentino Alto-Adige: Pinot Bianco, Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Butter Schnitzel
Butter Schnitzel | Photo by naples34102

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Trentino Alto-Adige:

Recipes to Pair with Wines from Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna is situated above Tuscany and below Lombardy and Veneto, with a narrow outlet to the Adriatic. If you love Italian food or Italian cars, then Emilia-Romagna is no doubt your kind of place. The region is Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini HQ. It is also the home of many of Italy's finest status-protected foods. And the region's capital city, Bologna, is often hailed as the food capital of all of Italy. Curiously, the wine industry here is not quite as esteemed as the food industry. The major red grape is Lambrusco, along with Sangiovese, Barbera and Bonarda. Albana is the primary white grape. Trebbiano grapes are used to make Modena's prized balsamic vinegar.

If the names Parma, Modena and Bologna sound familiar, it could be because each of these place names lends its name to some of the world’s most appreciated regional foods. There’s Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and Parma ham, generously aged balsamic vinegar from Modena (on the labels, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena) and Bolognese sauce and Bolognese pork sausage (mortadella). The cuisine here is rich and delicious, and includes meaty lasagna, tortellini, tagliatelle and mortadella (Americans call a version of mortadella "bologna").

Favorite Wines of Emilia-Romagna: Lambrusco, Sangiovese di Romagna, Trebbiano di Romagna, Albana di Romagna and Colli Bolognesi

Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese Sauce | Photo by Kim's Cooking Now!

More Recipes to Pair with the Wines of Emilia-Romagna

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