How to Make Pasta Sauce

Created January 26, 2017
Create pasta sauces that even an Italian grandmother would love. MORE+ LESS-

Tomato Sauce

When most people think of pasta sauce, they think of tomato-based sauces.

Before you add the tomatoes...

When making a tomato-based sauce, you need to start by sautéing your vegetables. Sauté them in olive oil for best results. Not only does it taste better than vegetable oil or butter, it's healthier. The most common sauce vegetables include onions, green or red peppers, and mushrooms. Be careful not to overcook them. You should also sauté garlic and add spices toward the end as you cook the vegetables. Use only fresh garlic.

Add the tomatoes

Canned tomatoes work fine. If you know what you're doing, use finely chopped fresh tomatoes. Mix the tomatoes right in to the vegetable mixture—don't drain the tomato juice. Some prefer chunked tomatoes that are squished, others prefer diced tomatoes that are not.

After you add the tomatoes...

Let the sauce simmer...for a long time. All day even, if you can get the heat low enough. One to three hours should do the trick, but make sure it's simmering and not boiling. Nobody will be impressed with burnt-flavored pasta sauce. Feel free to test the sauce at 30-minute intervals and add spices, if necessary.

I'm now going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes, if I don't like the consistency or if I feel the sauce is a little acidic, I'll add a jar of store-bought sauce. Nobody will ever know. Although you shouldn't rely on such a trick, it's good to have a back-up plan, just in case.

Other Sauces

Tomato based sauces aren't the only ones available. Here is a quick overview of how to make pasta sauce, non-tomato style.

Pesto - The key to making good pesto is to chop instead of blend. If you're thinking about store bought pesto, don't. You're better off with another pasta dish. Key ingredients in pesto include fresh basil, garlic, raw pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

Béchamel Sauce - Because the ingredients in béchamel are butter, milk, and flour, it's definitely not on the dieter's approved list of pasta dishes—which means it tastes really, really good. You can even season it with garlic or onions. Try a little nutmeg too.

Alfredo Sauce - Alfredo sauce is a close relative of Béchamel. The cream's a little heavier. The key to a good Alfredo sauce is the grated cheese. Use fresh Parmesan, not the stuff in the cylindrical container.

Carbonara Sauce - If you're looking for simple, this is it. Mix cream, bits of bacon, and raw eggs and stir it in with freshly cooked pasta. The pasta cooks the eggs as you stir. Carbonara is perfect over spaghetti or linguine. If you're afraid of salmonella, you can heat the sauce a little before pouring it over the pasta.

Do you have any pasta sauce secrets you'd like to share? Leave us a note in the comments!