We all know about spaghetti and marinara sauces coming from Italy and alfredo sauce as well. But there are many different Italian sauces that you may not have even thought of. But what makes a sauce authentically Italian? According to experts, an authentic Italian sauce uses traditional ingredients from the area where it was made including tomatoes, cream, cheese, meat, and herbs.
There are literally dozens of different kinds of authentic Italian sauces, but they are usually either made with a tomato base or a cream base. They almost always have tomato, garlic, oregano, basil, and other Italian herbs. Actually, there are several basic Italian sauces that include pasta sauce, cheese sauces, and pesto.
Different kinds of Italian sauces
First, there is the classic pasta sauce with tomatoes, olive oil, diced vegetables, and Italian seasonings. Then, there is the Bolognese sauce, which comes from Bologna, Italy. It has two types of meat in it such as chicken, pork, beef, or veal. They are chopped into small pieces and added to tomato sauce, chili peppers, oregano, white wine, and cream.
Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce made of garlic and tomatoes mixed with olive oil, oregano, parsley, basil, and onions. It may also have ground sweet peppers, chili peppers, and carrots with something sweet like honey or sugar. Amatriciana sauce is less common but is from a small town in Amatrice, Italy. It is made with cured pork, garlic, onions, and olive oil.
Alfredo sauce is a white sauce made with heavy cream, cream cheese, and butter as well as Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and pepper. It is often served with fettuccine noodles and commonly known as fettuccine alfredo. It is rich and creamy with subtle sweetness, perfect for just about any dish. Pesto sauce is another Italian favorite with a distinct flavor from pine nuts and tangy cheese, basil, garlic, and olive oil.
Vodka sauce is a creamy textured sauce that is often serve with ziti, tortellini, rigatoni, ravioli, or penne. It is made with vodka (of course), tomatoes, cream, garlic, onions, and parmesan cheese. It may also have romano, pecorino, and prosciutto. Carbonara sauce is also an Italian sauce made with cream, pancetta, parmesan cheese, and vegetables but it also has eggs, bacon, and peas.
Frequently asked questions
What are Italian sauces used for?
Although spaghetti sauce, also known as tomato sauce or pasta sauce, is typically used for spaghetti, it can also be used for lasagna, ravioli, and other pasta dishes. Just like marinara sauce, it can also be used as a condiment or dip for different appetizers like mozzarella sticks or toasted ravioli. Also, alfredo sauce is often used for chicken dishes like chicken alfredo.
Is Ragu a brand or an Italian sauce?
Ragu sauce (not the brand) is a tomato or marinara sauce with meat. Authentic ragu is made with minced veal, pork, pancetta, beef, chicken, or sausage browned with onions, carrots, and celery before simmering on low heat for several hours with wine and tomato puree. The brand name Ragu is not the same thing, but it is an American brand of spaghetti sauce named for the authentic sauce.
Tips and Tricks
You do not have to use spaghetti noodles every time. You can use just about any pasta with red sauce to make an Italian dish.
Similarly, you do not have to pair alfredo sauce with chicken. It also tastes great on veal, beef, and pork.
Although almost all Italian sauces have garlic, there are those that do not have any of these. In fact, garlic is more of a southern Italy seasoning.
Also, not all Italian sauces have tomatoes either. The obvious one is alfredo but then there is carbonara, bechamel, pesto, and meat sauce.
Brown butter is another authentic Italian sauce that does not have tomatoes. It is just butter that has been heated until it browns and gets that nutty flavor.
There are more than 350 different types of pasta. Try using more than just spaghetti, lasagna, fettuccine, penne, macaroni, and rigatoni.