Types of Italian Sauces


In addition to delicious pizza, pasta and desserts, Italy is home to many types of sauces. Interestingly, many sauces that are considered Italian, such as Alfredo sauce and vodka sauce, did not originate in Italy. Less well-known and more authentic sauces, such as puttanesca and carbonara, are gaining in popularity and can be found in most authentic Italian restaurants.


  • The word pesto means pounded in Italian, describing the typical way to make this flavorful sauce. Pesto sauce requires few ingredients, and a basic recipe will only need fresh basil and parsley, garlic, salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Adding pine nuts is a nice touch, although not mandatory. The sauce is made by crushing the fresh herbs in olive oil, then adding Parmesan cheese to taste. Pesto sauce is said to have originated in Italy, although similar sauces were also recorded in ancient Persia. It can also be made with a food processor.


  • Marinara sauce is a basic, vegetarian tomato sauce. The sauce is made by mixing crushed or diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) with sauteed onions and olive oil. It also usually includes typical Italian spices such as basil, oregano and parsley, as well as salt and pepper. There are many varieties of marinara sauce. To make a more complex sauce, add some red wine, garlic or Parmesan cheese.


  • Puttanesca is actually a derogatory term for a prostitute. It is unknown how this Italian sauce received its name, but its spicy flavor merits an interesting name. Puttanesca is a tomato sauce made with crushed anchovies, capers, black or Kalamata olives, garlic and red pepper. The sauce is not usually served with cheese.


  • The two unique ingredients in carbonara sauce are pancetta (an Italian version of bacon) and eggs. First, the pancetta is cooked with garlic and parsley. Cooked spaghetti (or another type of pasta) is then added to the mixture. The eggs are added last, and cooked over medium heat, but not scrambled. An authentic carbonara sauce does not use cream, although there are many variations which do.


  • Bolognese sauce is essentially marinara sauce with ground beef added to it. This sauce is extremely popular in Europe and the United States, and there are many variations. Originally, bolognese sauce did not include tomatoes, and used pork, beef and veal, as well as carrots and milk.

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