Pasta Sauce Recipes
November 26, 2011 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Easy, awesome pasta sauce recipes please.

A friend of mine was complaining recently about the complexity of all the dishes she learned to prepare at a Italian cooking course recently.

My question: what are some easy and awesome recipes for pasta sauce.

Bonus points for recipes that don't involve pork or alcohol (we live in a gulf country and both of these are expensive).

Thanks in advance hive mind!
posted by FunGus to Food & Drink (45 answers total) 182 users marked this as a favorite
Fry some garlic and mushrooms in butter. Add cream. Done.
posted by pompomtom at 5:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is one of my favorites right now....light, lots of flavor, simple.
posted by tomswift at 5:13 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Butter garlic sauce couldn't be easier. Sautee a couple of cloves of garlic in butter, toss in your pasta, add parsley and some hard cheese. Done.

A basic tomato sauce can be made out of nothing more than tomato and onion. If you want, you can add garlic, but it's not mandatory. If you have an immersion blender, you can just wand it at the end and it's ready to go.
posted by Gilbert at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love this eggplant (aubergine) pasta sauce. It is very easy, but definitely needs the dried tomatoes and basil if you don't want it to look all grey. As it says, Silky smooth and garlicky and eggplanty. Even for those who don't like eggplant.
posted by AnnaRat at 6:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

In the no-tomato department: In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp wine vinegar, some vietnamese (or other fave) hot sauce to taste, salt and pepper. Thin with a bit of the hot pasta water until it's a creamy consistency, then serve over pasta and steamed veggies. So, so easy and delicious. Takes like 5 minutes plus pasta boiling time.

Or just sautee onions or garlic, add soy sauce and honey, stir over heat a minute or two, serve over pasta and steamed veggies.
posted by mediareport at 6:13 AM on November 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

Tomato sauce with onion and butter.

I also like to fry chickpeas and good canned tuna in some oil for a while, maybe with shallots or onion, and then toss with short pasta, a bit of pasta water, parsley, parmesan, pepper, and lemon zest. Maybe capers, if they are handy.
posted by Schismatic at 6:13 AM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

sautee garlic and finely chopped onion.
add copious amounts of fresh tomatoes.
cook for a while.
season with salt and pepper.

serve with good parmesan cheese.
posted by entropone at 6:26 AM on November 26, 2011

carmelize a very large onion.
add a pound of chopped mushrooms. salt them lightly. cover until they start sweating. then add a chopped tomato and three or four cloves of garlic.

mushroom and tomato will release water. simmer in this moisture for about a half hour.

serve over gnocchi.
posted by entropone at 6:27 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

lightly sautee in garlic and onion about a pound of fresh spinach.

add a cup of ricotta cheese. salt and pepper to taste - heavy on the pepper.

top with good parmesan cheese. serve over linguini.
posted by entropone at 6:30 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I make this in summer: canned (or fresh) tomato (drained). A table spoon or so of olive oil, a clove or two of garlic, a few basil leaves. But in a blender and blend until combined. (Optional: heat it in a pot until warm. I like it warmed.) Serve over angel hair and top with some crumbled goat cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. It's very refreshing.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:38 AM on November 26, 2011

I came in to suggest the Tomato sauce with Onion and butter that Schismatic linked to. Dead simple, outrageously tasty, SO much more flavor than a can of Ragu. I would recommend using the Dei Fratelli tomatoes if you can track them down.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:37 AM on November 26, 2011

sometimes i buy some italian sausage and put it in my crock pot. add a cut up green pepper, red pepper, zucchini and onion. then add a can of crushed or diced tomatoes and garlic salt. stew on high for about 5 hours (or low for about 8) and there ya go. (I also add some red wine but that's not necessary.
posted by lester at 7:44 AM on November 26, 2011

Italian mother standby: lightly fry garlic in olive oil, add red pepper flakes, toss over spaghetti, season with salt and parmesan as desired.
posted by trigger at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Melt butter. Add lemon juice and chopped parsley (fresh if you have it, but dried is fine too.) A bit of lemon zest is nice but not obligatory. Turn off heat, add a can of good quality tuna fish packed in oil, not water. (The quality really matters here; cheap Bumblebee or the like is not going to be very good.). You want to just warm the fish, not cook it. Put over spaghetti, serve with grated Parmesan (the real thing, not that crappy fake Kraft powder.) Maybe a bit of salt if you like.

Super simple, takes about two minutes to cook, and very tasty.
posted by ook at 8:04 AM on November 26, 2011

My mama's recipe is delicious:

Cherry tomatoes, sautéed with chopped onions. Add a dash of sugar, salt and pepper, fresh basil at the end. Nom.

Secret for all pasta sauces. Add a quarter cup of pasta water to whatever sautéed veggies you want, it'll thicken it up nicely and make it saucy.

(whoever told your friend that Italian pasta sauces are complicated lied.)
posted by lydhre at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2011

This is easy. The most time involved is in chopping/grating, and then the simmering at the end.

Veal Sauce for Pasta (adapted from a recipe in the Pasta Fresca cookbook)
serves 3 - 4

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, or a combo of butter and light olive oil
1/2 a small onion, diced fine
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and diced (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
3/4 lb. ground veal
grated rind of 1 lemon
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Saute thyme and onion till soft, then add veal, lemon, salt and pepper. Saute till veal loses pink color. Add tomatoes and cream and cook/simmer on low - medium till thick, stirring occasionally (probably will take 20-25 minutes, depending on your stove and how thick you like it.)

Serve over pasta of your choice. Add some grated parmesan cheese over it at serving if you like.
posted by gudrun at 8:23 AM on November 26, 2011

Super-easy mac and cheese: Cook and drain macaroni. Add a spoonful of butter and grate some cheddar cheese on top. Then add a big splash of cream. Delicious, but not exactly health food.

Goat's cheese pasta: Cook some penne. Add a splash of olive oil, some crumbly goat's cheese (or feta), some toasted pine nuts, some cherry tomatoes cut in half, some stoned black olives and some torn basil leaves. You could also add some baby spinach leaves. Heat through.
posted by hazyjane at 8:26 AM on November 26, 2011

Pasta topped with just butter and some grated gruyere cheese is delicious (or cheddar in a pinch). Finish with coarse sea salt.
posted by hazyjane at 8:27 AM on November 26, 2011

I recently made linguine with brussels sprouts, bacon and shallots and liked it a lot.

My all-time favourite easy recipes are pasta with leek or green asparagus and smoked salmon, which I've posted in several different AskMeFi threads.
posted by amf at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

A basic marinara sauce challenged me for a long time before I started making it this way.

- Heat a very generous amount of olive oil -- 1/4 cup or more.
- Quarter an onion and peel half a dozen cloves of garlic.
- Once oil is very hot, put onion and garlic in and let it saute until onion is translucent and limp

---> Remove onion and garlic and discard or repurpose, the oil is now perfumed

- Toss in a handful of chopped parsley and let fry for 30 seconds (optional)
- Put 1-2 cans of crushed tomatoes (these are the best ones)
- Simmer for at least 30 minutes
- Salt generously and add a bit of sugar if needed (you won't need sugar for the 6-in-1)
- Add in a handful of chopped, fresh oregano after removed from heat

You can also add cheese (recommend pecorino) while it's simmering, if you want that kind of sauce. I've also tossed half a bell pepper for the perfuming and that turned out well, too.
posted by 10ch at 8:36 AM on November 26, 2011

This includes alcohol, but you don't rule it out completely in your question, and it's amazing, so:

Fry garlic in lots of olive oil. Chuck in chopped, tinned tomatoes that you've strained the juice off (you don't need the juice). Add a lot of white wine. Once it's all hot, add chunks of a solid, oily fish like salmon (about 1 inch cubes). Heat for another 5 mins. Add lots of chopped parsley.

Tastes magically good, as if it must have some kind of secret super-tasty ingredient. I think it's just the wine.
posted by penguin pie at 8:48 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I love to toss ravioli or gnocchi in butter which I've lightly cooked a few fresh sage leaves.

Jamie Oliver does a few very simple pasta recipes in his earlier books. One of them is basically take some super fresh cherry tomatoes in summer when they are all full of flavour and mush them up with your hands and still uncooked and toss them through hot pasta and tear on some fresh basil. The idea is the heat of the pasta lightly "cooks" the tomatoes and you get all that fresh fresh flavour. I've always wanted to try it, until I get my own garden going I don't like any of the tomatoes I find around here, but it's on my list for next summer.
posted by wwax at 8:53 AM on November 26, 2011

Oh my husband likes to cook up Italian sausage, garlic and peppers in a fry pan and toss through barely cooked pasta in the sausage fat to suck up all the yummy flavours.
posted by wwax at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2011

This one's delicious and easy.
  • 1 28oz can of Italian plum tomatoes (or two pounds or so of skinned fresh plum tomatoes).
  • 2/3 cup each of chopped onion, celery, carrot (yes, carrot) (I usually skip the celery and up the carrot and onion to a cup each).
  • Put it all in your big skillet.
  • Add some salt.
  • Let it burble gently for 30-45 minutes.
  • When it's nice and reduced, add 1/3 cup olive oil (good quality olive oil really makes this sauce come alive). Let that continue to burble for another 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve over your favorite pasta.
Lifted from Hazan's _Essentials of Classic Italian cooking_.
posted by notyou at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Olive Oil (hot) + Garlic (4-5 cloves) + Thyme (Dried or fresh) + Red Pepper Flakes (Or fresh chile!). Kick this round for a few until the garlic gets brown. Add about 3/4 cup of dry white wine. Let this get hot.

Add 90% done pasta straight from a boiling pot of water into the pan. Cook until done. Add veg if it makes you happy.

This is my default "I have no food in the kitchen" meal.
posted by GilloD at 9:51 AM on November 26, 2011

hot pasta + bacon or pancetta + raw egg + parmasean = creamy Spaghetti alla carbonara
posted by iiniisfree at 9:58 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wonderful in summer, this one. Just use good quality olive oil, great brie and the best tomatoes and your taste buds will sing. Shame about the alcohol - it really soars when accompanied with a nice red.
posted by Decani at 10:22 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sup bro.

I really like this one. It's easy and quick, you get the flavor of creamy pasta without the calories (you could substitute heavy cream if you wanted the calories, though), and it tastes awesome.

I would also recommend throwing some toasted pine nuts on top.
posted by duvatney at 11:24 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Halve a few tomatoes, salt them and drizzle them with olive oil, and stick them in a 350 degree oven for a while until they're browning and pretty shriveled. Like an hour. Mash them up. You can add herbs or garlic at this point, or you can roast the garlic with them, or you can just do the tomatoes.

When I first tried this I said, "Wow. This is the correct way to do this."
posted by cmoj at 11:57 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some of my favorites:

Fried sage leaves + brown butter. Fry the sage leaves (whole) in a bit of butter until crisp. Add more butter to the pan and leave it alone till it's brown (but not burnt). Add to any pasta, season with salt and pepper and grate parmesan on top.

Boursin cheese sauce. Get one of those boursin cheese rounds (creamy herby cheese) in whatever flavor you like. I use about half a round for 250 g of pasta. Cook the pasta, but don't drain all the water. Mix with the boursin cheese till you get a nice creamy sauce. You might need to add a bit more water and stir over gentle heat. Pepper to taste and perhaps a teeny bit of salt.

Chopped anchovies, dried red chilli flakes and sliced garlic fried in olive oil, then tossed with hot pasta. Season with salt and pepper.
posted by peacheater at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2011

My go-to pasta combinations:

-with onions caramelized in olive oil with some capers thrown in.
-Whole wheat pasta with spinach and raisins
-broccoli (steamed in a strainer over the boiling pasta) with dried hot pepper flakes and olives
-spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

And then there's always garlic quickly fried, a chopped tomato thrown in, followed by a handful of basil.

I love pasta. You can do a million things with it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:10 PM on November 26, 2011

No tomato and fatty:
* cut up some thick cut bacon and fry it until crispy
* after the fat has rendered, drain most of it and then add half-half (1/2 c.)
* scrape up the tasty bits and then dump your choice of cheese (I use a blue cheese)
* add some frozen peas and let things simmer a bit
* add back the bacon
* toss with your pasta (I use orrechiete)
* thin it with pasta water if it is too thick

If you are venturesome then add some toasted walnuts on top. This is rich, cheesy and should be done in small quantities. If you are real adventuresome then add chunks of raw, peeled Asian pear.
posted by jadepearl at 5:35 PM on November 26, 2011

Garlic, goat cheese and shrimp.

Toss the peeled raw and de-tailed shrimp with a little lime juice, some chili powder, some cumin and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta. Put the goat cheese in a big bowl in roughly tablespoon sized chunks.

Just before the pasta is done, saute the garlic. Toss in the shrimp. When the shrimp is pink and done throw it and the garlic and the hot pasta all together with the goat cheese. Yum.

You could even add bacon. And mushrooms. And whatever, really, but goat cheese and pasta is one of the worlds great undiscovered wonders.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:31 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Linguine al tonno

Olive oil in sautee pan over medium heat
carmelized onion
3-4 anchovy
Nice stir until fish "melts"
add drained, canned tuna (best in olive oil, like progresso)
break apart with fork
Another nice stir
Sprinkle in capers, pepper, red pepper flakes
Drop in a couple tablespoons your favorite jarred red sauce or diced tomatoes
Another nice stir until blended and bubbly
Add al dente linguine to sautee pan
Serve it up.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:50 PM on November 26, 2011

mygothlaundry, old taboos would have had my mama gasping at that shrimp-goat cheese combo!
posted by thinkpiece at 6:56 PM on November 26, 2011

Toss hot pasta with any combination of the following:

- olives
- capers
- anchovies
- parsley
- sundried tomatoes
- garlic
- caramelized onions

Include lots of parmesan.
posted by bunderful at 10:41 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Pioneer Woman's Tomato Cream Sauce is crazy delicious and simple.
posted by knile at 1:39 AM on November 27, 2011

My SO got me hooked on spaghetti aglio e olio, and it's almost the only sauce I eat anymore. It is quite easy, flexible, and delish.

I don't usually use a recipe per se, but here is a basic one to start with:

I usually use more garlic than that, and I sautee the garlic in olive oil for a few moments in the hot pan the pasta was cooked in, after turning off the heat and while the pasta drains. There is no need for a separate pan to sautee the garlic in.

I also like to use way more than one tablespoon of fresh herbs (we always use Italian flat leaf parsley), more like 3 or 4.

The variations on this recipe are endless. A favorite addition of mine in the summer is chopped garden tomatoes. My SO likes to add anchovies (blech). We also frequently have it with with Italian sausages.

Instead of adding things, you can also eliminate things like the paprika and red pepper flakes. This is genuinely good even if all you use is pasta, oil, salt, and garlic.

It's important to use high-quality ingredients since this dish is so simple. Use extra virgin olive oil. Chop or smash your own garlic, don't use powdered stuff. Use fresh herbs, not dried. Grate your own good Parmesan, Romano, and/or Pecorino cheese.

My go-to pasta sauce used to be a simple marinara: just sautee garlic in olive oil, add strained tomatoes (I liked Bionaturae, though they don't seem to be as good anymore), and add a pinch of sea salt at the end. Can also be dressed up with a bit of fresh basil or wine added near the end.

Both of these sauces can easily be made by the time the spaghetti is done cooking!
posted by parrot_person at 4:43 AM on November 27, 2011

Here is the recipe I use. It's very very simple.

1 can petite diced tomato, halfway drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
olive oil

get the garlic, red pepper and salt going in the olive oil for a minute and then add the tomatoes, cover and keep on low for like five minutes.

what you get isn't really a sauce I guess but it's delish.
posted by amitai at 5:57 AM on November 27, 2011

1. Put an egg in the cooked pasta and stir.
2. Pretty much any vegetable. I like roasted broccoli with lemon and hot pepper flakes. I also often stir some Swiss Chard into the pasta while cooking.
posted by xammerboy at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Roast 3 red bell peppers in the broiler so that they soften and the skins blacken. Put in a bowl and cover so that they will be easy to peel. Put in food processor: 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of fresh basil, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar), and the peeled red peppers. Mix in food processor. Add salt to taste. Mix the sauce with warm pasta and a handful of feta cheese--yum!
posted by biscuits at 9:01 PM on November 27, 2011

I've been making this five-ingredient asparagus lemon sauce for over ten years. It is super easy and delish.
posted by jrichards at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2011

Chop 1/2 to 1 onion, smash/mince a couple cloves of garlic.
Heat a pan with a healthy slug of olive oil, and add the stuff. Let it start to cook, but not get all brown, and add a half-bag of frozen spinach.
Season it: dried basil, salt, plenty of black pepper, a tiny dash of cayenne or other hot pepper, and the important part, a spoonful of honey.
If I'm doing a ravioli-type dish, this is done. If I want it a little saucier instead of vegetables in a tiny bit of tasty pan juice, then I've added more olive oil, or a slosh of cream, or a spoonful of flour (stir and cook a moment) and a half-cup of milk.

My favorite easiest pasta sauce recipe:
open the jar of sauce from the grocery. Put in a pan with 1/2 c red wine and 1/2 bag frozen spinach (or more, to taste). Add extra basil, black pepper, or garlic if you want. Simmer half an hour or more. Yes, it will be hot and edible much earlier, but the long simmer with the red wine makes it taste like someone's grandmother worked really hard on it.
posted by aimedwander at 8:53 AM on November 28, 2011

My awesome alfredo sauce is:

a pint of heavy cream (table cream works, too)
a stick of butter
two cups of shredded parmesan

I dump this in a saucepan and heat & stir it until everything is nice and melty. Pour it over about a pound of warm pasta and voila - heart attack on a plate!
posted by jabes at 4:52 PM on November 28, 2011

Chopped chilli, one anchovy per person, chopped parsley and lemon juice to taste. Heat gently until the anchovy turns to mush.

Cream or creme fraiche with lemon zest and lemon juice to taste.

Cream or creme fraiche with fried bacon bits and mushrooms.

Chop some tomatoes and cook them down, add pesto and heat.
posted by emilyw at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011

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