Pasta and sauce go together like peanut butter and jelly – you can’t have one without the other! (Well you can, but it’s not as tasty!)
There are tons of popular pasta dishes that use different sauces out there. Which pasta sauces are the MOST popular?
Some of the most popular pasta sauces include:
- Alfredo sauce
- Bechamel sauce
- Bolognese sauce
- Marinara sauce
- Pesto sauce
- Tomato sauce
What is the difference between all these sauces? We’ll explain next!
6 most popular pasta sauces
This delicious white sauce is most well known for its role in chicken alfredo, a dish with pasta, alfredo sauce, and chicken. Alfredo sauce can also be an excellent alternative for red sauce on pizza as well as in pasta dishes and as a dipping sauce.
Alfredo sauce is made with butter, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese (beware if you have a milk allergy or are vegan!). (Store-bought versions can also contain ingredients like eggs, so always be sure to read the ingredients label if you have dietary restrictions.)
If you want a vegan-friendly alfredo sauce, there are plenty of recipes you can try using nutritional yeast, a popular vegan cheese substitute.
Bechamel is a versatile sauce used to thicken foods like soups and casseroles, and it can even be used to cook veggies as a simple sauce (also called ‘white sauce’)
Bechamel is a popular ingredient in baked pasta dishes. Bechamel is quite simple and consists of two ingredients: fat and flour.
A basic bechamel recipe is to first make a roux with fat (e.g. butter, ghee, coconut oil, etc) and all-purpose flour. To make the roux, melt the fat and then stir the flour in until you have a smooth sauce.
Then reduce the heat, whisk in the milk, and season it with salt and pepper -and viola! You have bechamel sauce.
Bolognese sauce is used to make spaghetti bolognese, a popular pasta dish. What’s in bolognese sauce?
Bolognese is a type of ragu or meat sauce. It contains ingredients like ground meat (typically beef or pork), tomatoes, wine, garlic onion, celery, carrot, and some milk. Ragu is heavier in meat than it is tomatoes, which is one way to tell the difference!
Bolognese sauce differs from regular spaghetti sauce and ragu because it includes milk, celery, and carrots.
Marinara sauce is a type of tomato sauce with garlic and herbs. Unlike spaghetti sauce which contains meat (a ragu), marinara sauce contains NO meat. Marinara sauce is thicker than pizza sauce because it needs to coat the pasta (pizza sauce is pureed to be thinner in consistency, which doesn’t coat pasta as well).
Pesto is a versatile oil-based spread that can be added to soups, bread, pizza, pasta, and more! It typically contains olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan. Pesto is delicious when used as a pizza sauce in place of red sauce, too.
You can easily make your pesto at home with a food processor if you don’t want to buy a store-bought version.
Tomato sauce is thicker (thanks to simmering it) than marinara (but less chunky!) and is referred to as “Sunday gravy” by some Italians. Tomato sauce can also be referred to as “spaghetti sauce”.
How is tomato sauce different from pizza sauce? The main difference is that tomato sauce is cooked before being used in things like pasta sauce, and pizza sauce is uncooked when it’s placed on pizza dough and is cooked while the pizza is cooking.
Tomato sauce is a popular ingredient in spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, and many more dishes!
You can make your own delicious tomato sauce by softening plum tomatoes and simmering them with butter, olive oil, garlic, onions, salt, sugar, and basil and mashing it into a thick sauce.
Marinara sauce and tomato sauce are some of the most popular sauces for pasta, as well as creamy alfredo sauce.
Marinara sauce and ragu (meat-based sauce) are some of the most common spaghetti sauces.