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Interesting pasta sauces?

I just realized that I have a tiny repetoire of pasta sauces. It's noticable because we've been eating a LOT of pasta recently, because it's fast and the baby isn't giving me time to cook. I do a very nice meat tomato sauce, and an acceptable marinara, but I'd like to expand, especially with recipes that are a)fairly low-prep b) preferably freezable.

I don't like fish, which is sad, but I'm interested in any pasta sauces that don't have fish, and I'm really interested in non or low-tomato sauces, since I've already got those mostly covered.


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  1. You would really do yourself a great service if you could get your hands on Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which literally has dozens of pasta sauce ideas.

    A couple of my favorites include broccoli with red pepper and garlic; cauliflower with red pepper, garlic and anchovies; and roasted red pepper and sausage. Typically her recipes are super easy, just calling for good quality ingredients, and always come out tasty.

    6 Replies
    1. re: DanaB

      I agree. One of my favorites is the very simple tomato sauce, cooked with butter and an onion sliced in half.

      1. re: MMRuth

        I agree as well. She spends a lot of time discussing matching the sauce to the pasta shape which is interesting to me. Her recipes are very good and have several combinations I would not have thought of, it is a great bok to buy, you are sure to use it many times.

        1. re: cassoulady

          Indeed - mine is now in several pieces!

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I had that book and liked it - though I ended up giving it to my sister.

        2. re: DanaB

          One of my favorites from this book is the broccoli and anchovy. So fast and east and so tasty!

        3. i love pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage. Use two hot italian sausages, remove casing cumble in pan and saute along with 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, Cook for a few min then add abuot 1/2 lb broccoli rabe cut up. add 1/4 cup white wine saute until wine evaporates. Toss the mixture with cooked pasta and sprinke with cheese, and add some pasta cooking liquid if you need to. This is also tasty at room temperature I think.

          1. I'm embarrassed to admit my love for Nigella Lawson's Sunday Night Pasta. While your pasta's cooking, fry a bruised garlic clove in some oil, remove when browned, then dissolve half a chicken bullion cube. Add a half cup or so of heavy cream, let bubble for 30 seconds, crank in some black pepper, toss with pasta. That's the basic version, but if you're feeling fancy you can add caramelized onions, mushrooms, peas, sundried tomatoes, parm, etc. Not the healthiest sauce, but there's always room for a little cream sauce.

            2 Replies
            1. re: meleyna

              I like Nigella's quick pasta ideas too - just saw this on TV but haven't tried it yet - gnocchi with mustard cider cream sauce. It was hard cider, grain mustard and cream of course, served with pork chops.

              1. re: yamalam

                I was just thinking of suggesting Nigella''s Carbonara - I don't think it would freeze well - but, it is easy.

            2. I think you'd be well-served to think of pasta less as pasta+sauce and more as a complete dish. So many fresh, quick, easy pastas -- most, actually, in my experience -- never involve sauce in the sense that it exists as a separate entity to be added to pasta. If you open up this way, there are countless quick, fresh easy pastas that you can toss together in moments.

              Saute some fresh Italian sausage and raisins in olive oil and a little butter, add some turmeric and a touch of cream.

              Saute minced onion and pancetta in some olive oil, add a splash of white wine and toss the resulting pasta with grated pecorino.

              Cook a few cloves of sliced garlic in olive oil over medium heat until they just barely start to turn golden, remove from the heat, add a few anchovy fillets, stir to break up the fillets, toss with pasta and top with toasted breadcrumbs.

              Saute shrimp in olive oil, add a splash of cognac and a cup of shredded radicchio, cook for a minute so that the radicchio softens, and toss with your pasta.

              Add the zest and juice of a couple lemons to a little olive oil over medium head, let them reduce a bit, whisk in a bunch of butter and add your pasta.

              These are just a few ideas. The point being that thinking about pasta less as being a matter as separate pasta and sauce entities that are combined and more as a complete dish opens up all kinds of possibilities.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Dmnkly

                Excellent point. Two of my favorites are sage and brown butter and rosemary in brown butter - usually with a cheese ravioli, but wonderful with plain fresh pasta.

              2. I have Marcella Says, but I don't have Essentials of Classic... I'll put it on hold at the library.

                These recipes sound great. This post was spurred both by the amount of pasta we've been eating, and thinking that a half jar of ajvar+heavy cream would probably make an awesome pasta sauce, which lead me to digging out Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food, with all his ultra-quick suggestions. Right now my favourite foods can either be made in quantity ahead of time, or quickly assembled from a couple of ingredients.

                Until I read Marcella Says, i had never even thought of trying to match sauce to pasta. It makes so much sense.

                Oh, another favourite quality- can be interrupted in cooking because baby is hungry! Although my husband is finally sort of starting to learn to cook....

                2 Replies
                1. re: lissar

                  I have had fun making spaghetti carbonara, and when done right, is amazing.. got to work quick, though, and pre-heat everything. I used the Cooks Illustrated recipe. I also like a good bolognese - although it takes quite a while. A third leg would be knowing how to make a good funghi sauce (mushrooms). Hazen has a couple in her book...

                  1. re: grant.cook

                    I often cook the bacon/wine ahead of time (a little) and then reheat and combine w/ the eggs and cheese when I'm ready ....

                2. And of course, a clam sauce - read "Heat" by Bill Buford for a great description of what makes a clam sauce come together..

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: grant.cook

                    Yes, I went on a clam sauce binge after reading his book. Really yummy stuff. My personal favorite quick sauce is Puttanesca - big flavors and so yummy!! Cook's Illustrated has a great recipe.

                  2. I recently made a pesto with fresh spnach and toasted almonds slivers. It was one of those things where I had some basic stuff in the house and I decided to experiment. The family loved it.

                    I topped it off with some truffled cheese, and that really sealed the deal/

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      Pesto pesto pesto!!!
                      1 cup basil & spinach (I do 2 parts basil to 1 part spinach, but adjust to taste)
                      1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
                      1 clove garlic
                      1/2 cup romano/parmesian cheese (again I do 2:1, but adjust to taste)
                      Put it in the blender and run til finely chopped.
                      Add 1/3 cup olive oil.
                      Blend some more.

                      Super-easy and delicious, a nice change from tomato sauce, freezes well (I make a few gallons in the summer, freeze it in small containers, and defrost throughout the year.)

                    2. I recently made a somewhat non-traditional bolognese which I got off of foodnetwork.com; it was an Emeril recipe and I thought it was delicious.

                      1. I made this carbona with leeks recipe on Friday night: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        It only took 30 minutes to prepare, from water boiling to eating. We thought it quite tasty. While I am not sure about freezability, all of the ingredients are long-lasting enough to keep in your refridgerator or pantry.

                          1. I have this one in my "to try" list book:

                            Exotic Pasta Sauce with Wine and Raisins:

                            1. How about this pasta dish

                              For the Gnocchi:
                              2 pounds sweet potatoes
                              2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
                              1 1/2 teaspoons salt
                              1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                              1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                              1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup for the work surface

                              For the Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter:
                              1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
                              20 fresh sage leaves
                              1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                              2 tablespoons maple syrup
                              1 teaspoon salt
                              1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

                              For the Gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

                              Pierce the sweet potato with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large measuring cup to make sure the sweet potatoes measure about 2 cups. Transfer the mashed sweet potatoes back to the large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and blend until well mixed. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough in a ball on the work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.

                              Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.

                              For the Brown Butter sauce: While the gnocchi are cooking melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the sage leaves. Continue to cook, swirling the butter occasionally, until the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Careful, the mixture will bubble up. Gently stir the mixture. When the bubbles subside, toss the cooked gnocchi in the brown butter. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving dish and serve immediately.

                              1. You could check this out. It's meant to be recipes that you prepare quickly, although there may be some prep involved.


                                1. Last night I made pasta with garbanzos and greens with a sauce made of tahini mixed with tomatoes. Quick & easy.