Which Beer Goes Best With Pasta? (Tomato, Alfredo, Pesto, & More!)

What beer should you pair with your pasta? Well, it depends on the kind of pasta you’re making – Is your pasta light, or is it heavy and rich? Just like with a wine pairing, the flavors and type of the pasta will determine the style of beer that you should pair it with.

The beers that go best with pasta are ones that complement the flavors and weight of the meal. Pair amber ales with marinaras, pilsners with alfredo and bolognese, pale ales with pesto, dunkels with carbonara, and hefeweizens or witbiers with vongole. Take inspiration from classic wine pairings when making your selection.

Read on for more on what beers go with which kinds of pasta and how to choose which styles to use with each sauce.

Do beer and pasta go together?

Although beer might not be the historical or cultural go-to when you think about pasta pairings, it has a rightful place at the dinner table with this comfort food.

In general, beer and pasta go well together. A heavier pasta calls for a lighter and more refreshing beer – something like a German-style pilsner or a Kolsch. Stay away from the super heavy beers like stouts. For somewhat lighter pasta dishes like marinara, pair it with a medium-bodied amber ale or dark lager.

Since beer and pasta can both be heavy on your stomach, it’s good practice to pair each style with the opposite – heavier with lighter or vice versa.

Does beer pair as well with Italian food as wine?

Wine works so well with Italian foods – especially pasta – because it does a wonderful job of using its sweetness to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

However, to each their own; some people prefer beer over wine when eating pasta. Some sweeter beers do just as good a job when paired with pasta as wine does. Golden ales do a good job with their subtle fruity notes helping to cut the acidity.

Beer pairs well with Italian food. It’s just a matter of choosing the right style of beer to pair with your meal.

And, because wine pairings are time-tested and traditional choices, it’s worth considering the character and notes of the expected wine and choosing a beer with similar characteristics.

How to pair pasta and beer together

To pair beer with pasta, we need to consider the many different pasta styles. There’s a plethora of different sauces, noodles, meats, flavors, degrees of spiciness, and more variables to factor in when deciding on a beer pairing for pasta.

Different styles of pasta will work better with specific beer styles. Sweet and malty beers like amber ales pair well with acidic marinaras and potent vongoles. Light pilsners and American lagers go best with heavy alfredo and bolognese, and pale ales serve as great additions to an herby pesto sauce. 

Each pasta sauce benefits from a well-suited beer style to heighten the flavor and eating experience.

The best beer to pair with marinara

Marinara sauce has a tomato base and usually contains other ingredients like garlic, pepper, and herbs like basil and oregano. The sauce is slightly sweet with high acidity because of the tomatoes used and is one of the simplest sauces to make.

The best beer to pair with marinara sauce is an amber ale. The malty sweetness pairs well with the flavors from the tomatoes and herbs used in this pasta dish, and the hoppiness helps cut through the acidity of the sauce.

The best beer to pair with alfredo pasta

The North American version of alfredo pasta is a heavy and rich sauce with a parmesan cheese or heavy cream base. It includes garlic and sometimes chives.

Since alfredo pasta is so heavy and rich, the ideal beer would be a German-style pilsner or light American lager. These modest beer styles are light and refreshing and will let the pasta dish shine while providing an added malt or subtle hop flavor and sweetness.

The best beer to pair with bolognese

Bolognese is a classic meat-based pasta with rich and thick red sauce. The recipe calls for onion, celery, carrots, and ground beef with a sauce that uses tomato, white wine, and whole milk. It has a sweet and salty blend of flavors.

The best beer to pair with bolognese is a sweeter beer that offers a crisp finish and cuts the richness of the sauce and savoriness of the meat with its carbonation. A good beer in this style would be the traditionally-tried Peroni Nastro Azzurro.

The best beer to pair with pesto

Pesto is a thick green sauce that has herby flavors and garlicky, piny undertones with a richness from the cheese used. A traditional recipe calls for basil pesto, parmesan, and olive oil, amongst other things.

The pale ale beer style pairs greatly with pesto. The pine tones from the hop varieties used will accentuate the herb flavors and pine nut flavors that are so prominent in pesto.

The best beer to pair with carbonara

The main ingredients for carbonara include parmesan, bacon, egg, and olive oil. This simple and lighter dish is rich and flavorful without being heavy. It’s traditionally served over a bed of spaghettoni (a very long spaghetti noodle).

The best beer styles to pair with carbonara are dunkles and schwarzbier, or light porters, because of their toasted malt flavors and ability to complement the more complex and subtle flavors of carbonara.

The best beer to pair with puttanesca

The main ingredients in puttanesca are tomatoes, olives, capers, and garlic. The dish is extremely savory from the addition of olives.

Rye lagers pair well with puttanesca because their subtle smoky or salty taste brings out the savoriness of the puttanesca without overpowering the sauce’s main characteristics.

The best beer to pair with vongole

The main ingredient in this dish is the clam or cockles used, with garlic and parsley. The briny flavor and mouthfeel of the clams pair well with the brothy sauce.

Lighter to medium-bodied styles pair well with vongole, including hefeweizens, witbiers, and amber lagers. These beers’ subtle and sweet tastes range from wheat and citrus to caramel and toffee and complement the savory seafood taste of the vongole.

The best beer to pair with cheesy pasta like mac and cheese

Classic American mac and cheese is a versatile dish that can lend a myriad of flavors to the table as a comfort food powerhouse. With the heaviness from the different cheeses used and the possible addition of bread crumbs, we will want to shoot for a lighter beer style.

Pilsners and kolsches go well with mac and cheese because their subtle hop flavors and fruity undertones don’t overpower the cheese in mac and cheese dishes. The beers are also light enough to not add unwanted heaviness alongside this comforting meal.