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13 Different Types of Pasta Sauce for Your Next Pasta Night

The best types of sauce to make for any pasta dish.

Pasta is one of the world’s most popular and beloved foods, known for its various shapes and textures. While the popularity of pasta is well known, many people overlook one of the key elements of any great pasta dish, and that’s the sauce that accompanies it!

Bowl of  Creamy Alfredo

A great pasta sauce is what sets apart a good pasta night from a great one. There are also many different types of sauce, so there’s no need to worry about boredom even if you eat a lot of pasta.

While a lot of pasta sauces do rely on tomato, there are many other options, and even tomato-based sauces can be changed and tweaked by adding various different herbs and ingredients to bring out different flavors and textures.

In this article, we’re going to look at the best pasta sauces to help you bring a little pizzazz to your next pasta night.

Types of Italian Pasta Sauce

When looking at which sauce you want to use for pasta night there are many different options. A lot of sauces use tomato as a core ingredient, however there are some great alternatives when a different flavor is required, or if you’re not a huge fan of tomatoes!

While many of these sauces are from traditional Italian cuisine, there are sauces from other parts of the world that could work just as well.

Some sauces are quite simple while others are a little more elaborate, but they are all relatively simple recipes that will impress your guests immensely when compared to pre-prepared sauces.

Bolognese

Bolognese is one of the most popular and delicious pasta sauces and is known to be favored by people who like to incorporate meat into their pasta dishes.

Bolognese Pasta Sauce with raw pasta, tomatoes and other ingredients

Originating in Italy, this sauce is sometimes referred to as Ragu which is another popular meat focused pasta sauce with roots in Italian cuisine.

Bolognese traces its name to the Italian city of Bologna. The sauce typically includes ground meat, tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, white wine, cream, butter, and some seasonings.

This sauce is typically served over your pasta of choice and topped with hard cheese such as parmesan or manchego to add a little extra flavor.

Check out this easy bolognese recipe to make at home!


Puttanesca Sauce

The origin of puttanesca is unclear, however, the name of this sauce is a little saucy in and of itself!

Puttanesca Sauce in a pan

This is because puttana is the Italian word for ‘prostitute’ and there are some theories that this sauce originated in one of the famous bordellos in Naples.

However some say that ‘Puttan’ is a word used by Italians as a general profanity, and it may simply mean that someone threw a bunch of leftover ‘stuff’ together which is where this sauce originates from.

Regardless of its origins, suga alla puttanesca is one of the most famous and delicious pasta sauces that is fragrant and delicious.

Puttanesca sauce is typically made with tomatoes, olives, capers, chilli peppers, anchovies, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper.

The idea behind puttanesca is to create a wonderfully fragrant dish, which is why there are many flavorful ingredients.

Make it yourself with this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish!


Marinara Sauce

Marinara is one of the most beloved sauces in the world and is particularly popular among Italian Americans, where it is believed to have originated from, inspired by the traditional Italian culinary culture.

Marinara Sauce in a White Bowl

The American version is quite different from the Italian version, however, which is thinner and is tied to seafood. Marinara is a red sauce, but unlike Bolognese it does not contain meat.

The American version is much thicker and is less focused on being eaten with seafood – it’s commonly served with strombolis, calzones, mozzarella sticks, and other meals as a dipping sauce.

This dish is very simple, which is one of the reasons for its popularity. Marinara is made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, chili flakes, olive oil, and salt.

Make your own marinara with this simple recipe.


Pesto Pasta Sauce

Breaking away from the tomato dominated sauces, Pesto sauce is one of the most unique with its green hues and sharp, herby flavor.

Pesto Sauce on Dark Stone Table

Pesto sauce is also quite easy to make and doesn’t require many ingredients making it another great choice for beginners.

To make pesto, all you need is a lot of basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and a cheese like parmesan or pecorino romano.

The result is a fragrant, garlicky sauce that offers a different flavor from many other Italian pasta sauces!

Learn how to make pesto here!


Ragu

Ragu is one of the most ubiquitous Italian sauces (and varies by region) and Bolognese is considered one of the main variants of this sauce.

Ragu Sauce on a Wooden Spoon

There are various styles of Ragu. The main component of a ragu sauce is that it has a meat base, but you can use different types of meat to create different ragus.

A classic ragu cooks for an extended period of time, so this is not the quickest dish if you make it right.

Veal and lamb are common in a Ragu, but you can get creative. Other ingredients often include tomatoes, onion, garlic, white wine, and Italian herbs and seasonings.

Check out this classic beef ragu recipe here!


Salsa di Nochi

This pasta sauce is another one that doesn’t rely on tomatoes, using walnuts as the main ingredient.

Salsa di Nochi in a white bowl on wooden table

Salsa di Nochi is typically made with walnuts, cream, bread, garlic, lemon, parmesan, and herbs.

The result is a rich, creamy sauce that is often served with gnocchi or on ravioli, although you can use any type of pasta you wish.

Learn how to make salsa di nocci with this recipe!


Funghi E Piselli

This dish is a great choice for vegetarians, however, some vegans may reject it due to the use of heavy cream.

Funghi E Piselli Pasta

If in doubt make sure to check what your diners are comfortable with. The reason heavy cream is essential is that this is a dish defined by its rich and creamy texture.

Funghi e Piselli is a white sauce made with mushrooms and peas. The sauce is typically made with heavy cream, mushrooms, peas, onions, white wine, garlic, parmesan, lemon, chives, and stock.

The result is a creamy sauce flavored by the vegetables. It goes well on its own with your favorite pasta!

Make it yourself with this recipe!


Amatriciana

This sauce is another traditional Italian option focused on using cured pork cheek and tomatoes as well as pecorino cheese and hails from Amatrice.

Amatriciana Sauce in a cooking pan

Amatriciana tends to be a spicier red sauce, so if you want a little kick to your pasta, this is the sauce for you!

Amatriciana sauce is typically made with guaniciale as mentioned, as well as tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and basil. Throw in some chilis to make it spicy!

This sauce is often served with bucatini pasta, but you can use your pasta of choice.

Learn how to make your own amatriciana with this recipe.


Alfredo

Alfredo sauce is one of the most popularized American Italian pasta sauces.

Bowl of Alfredo Pasta Sauce in a brown bowl

Alfredo is a rich and creamy sauce that is best served with chicken, however, this isn’t essential.

The recipe is very simple and only calls for a few ingredients also. To make an alfredo sauce, you’ll need heavy cream, parmesan, butter, garlic, and seasonings.

Those ingredients thicken up into many people’s favorite white sauce!

Try this popular alfredo recipe at home to make it yourself.


Bean Bolognese

This is another lovely option for vegans that is very simple and has a lot of flavor as well as the many nutritional benefits that beans provide.

Bean Bolognese

If you want the flavor of a classic bolognese but without the meat, you can use beans to add protein and fill in for meat!

The process is similar to making a classic bolognese; you’ll still use other veggies like onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes to create a thick red sauce.

This bean bolognese recipe is a hit among vegetarians!


Frutti Di Mare

If you love a seafood pasta, this is probably one of your favorite sauces.

Typical Italian Frutti Di Mare Pasta

Frutti Di Mare is one of the more elaborate recipes however it is well worth it for seafood lovers who want to try something a little more ambitious.

This sauce is pretty light – the bulk of the sauce is the seafood itself. To make frutti di mare, use scallops, mussels, shrimps, and anchovies along with onions, tomatoes, garlic, white wine, and seasonings.

The result is a light but flavorful pasta sauce with plenty of seafood! Make it yourself with this recipe.


Pomodoro Sauce

Another classic red sauce is pomodoro.

pomodoro tomato sauce made of fresh tomato, garlic, dried oregano and salt

Pomodoro sauce is a very quick and easy-to-make sauce using limited ingredients and is a great choice for budget-conscious chefs.

The simple ingredients are similar to a marinara, as this sauce is made with tomato, garlic, onion, parmesan, basil, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and salt.

Try this recipe to make it yourself!


Bechamel

This is the base of many different white sauces, but it’s great on its own too!

Bechamel Sauce in a Blue Bowl

Bechamel is another creamy sauce that works well with chicken or mushrooms and is itself almost a sort of cream-turned sauce.

To make a bechamel, you’ll need cream, flour, parmesan, butter, white wine, salt and pepper at the most basic version.

Some people also use chicken or vegetables to add flavor, and you can also add garlic and other seasonings.

Experiment with your own additions or try this classic recipe!

Final Thoughts

A home-cooked pasta dish is the way to many people’s hearts, so we hope you’re able to try and make one of the sauces featured in our list.

These Italian pasta sauces are sure to wow your company on your next pasta night. With so many options there’s sure to be a pasta sauce that you’ll love.

Did we leave your favorite pasta sauce out of the list? Leave us a comment with your favorite pasta sauce and recipe!

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Written by Kyle Green

Kyle lives never passes up the opportunity to try a new restaurant. As a former New Yorker of 7 years, he enjoys regular trips to NYC to visit friends and enjoys all the restaurants and activities the city have to offer. He also spends time on the road tasting and reviewing other restaurant scenes around the country.