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Classic Pasta Sauces

Pasta sauces are as varied as pasta shapes, but the classic pasta sauces stand out. After you get to know the classic pasta sauces, you can begin experimenting with different ingredients.

  • Alfredo: A rich sauce of cream, butter, Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground black pepper (usually tossed over fettuccine.)

  • Alle Vongole: Pasta (usually spaghetti) tossed with clams, olive oil, white wine, and herbs.

  • Carbonara: Crisply cooked bacon (usually Italian pancetta) combined with garlic, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and sometimes cream.

    [Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images]
    Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images
  • Marinara: The basic Italian tomato sauce, slow cooked and infused with garlic and Italian herbs (such as oregano and basil), is easy to adapt to different recipes by adding mushrooms, ground meat, or vegetables.

  • Pesto: Fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil blended to a fine paste.

  • Primavera: A mixture of sautéed spring vegetables (such as sweet red pepper, tomatoes, asparagus, and snow peas) and fresh herbs.

    [Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.]
    Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.
  • Puttanesca: A sauce of anchovies, garlic, tomatoes, capers, and black olives.

  • Ragù alla Bolognese: A long-simmered sauce of meat (usually ground beef, veal, or pork) and tomatoes, named for the city of Bologna, where it was invented. For a true Bolognese, you brown the meat lightly and then cook it in a small amount of milk and wine before adding tomatoes.

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