Pasta is one of the quickest and easiest foods you can cook at home, but sometimes you might just want something a little different. That’s where the sauce you add can make a huge difference. Bolognese or cheese sauce work well with kids, but what if you need a few extra ideas to sharpen up your repertoire.
Here’s our eleven favourite sauces. All are relatively easy with little fuss, and some can be made in just a few minutes.
- Pomodoro also known humbly as sugo or sauce, is at the base of Italian cooking. It is the most universal sauce of all and is easily made from tomatoes, fried onion or garlic, oil and herbs. It’s a favourite of kids, vegetarians and those that like the simple things in life. This sauce is very easy to vary to suit your own taste. For a spicy sauce, add a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes; for a creamy sauce, stir in a few tablespoons of cream or mascarpone at the end of cooking; and for a meaty flavour, add chopped bacon, chorizo, salami or ham when frying the onion. Pour over your pasta and don’t forget to garnish with fresh basil and parmesan for a simple gourmet look.
- Bolognese is probably the most popular pasta sauce outside of Italy and in Australia is often served on spaghetti. If you find it in Italy, it would most likely be served with large shells or a thick ribbon pasta. There are endless bolognese recipes made using pomodoro variations and minced meats or meat alternatives. It is perfect for making great lasagne, simply layering it and béchamel sauce with lasagne sheets before baking.
- Pesto has come to mean blended herbs or leafy vegetables and nuts, with ingredients ranging from kale to olives and tomatoes. Classic Italian pesto however blends olive oil, basil, pine nuts, salt and parmesan. For a creamy version add a little sour cream, for a gourmet version try walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts, and for a red pesto, how about baked capsicum or sundried tomatoes instead of basil. At GF Pantry we do love a little substitution.
- Avocado and basil is one of the freshest pasta sauces you can make. Just blend avocado flesh, lemon juice, garlic, oil and basil until smooth. Season with salt and toss through your cooked pasta. You only need one avocado, half a lemon, half a garlic clove and a few sprigs of basil per person and the best pasta choice is the spaghetti you currently have in your cupboard. This one is great for a light lunch and is perfect for vegans or families with many allergies.
- Alfredo is an unassuming luxury with very basic ingredients that can often be found in the fridge. Just warm around 125g of butter and double that of cream, then season with salt, pepper and parmesan. Stir until beautifully melted together and toss through your pasta. Thin with the pasta water if required and always serve with a fresh green salad to counterbalance the richness of your sauce.
- Creamy pork sausage sauce is another great kid’s sauce. All you need to do is panfry chopped onion, garlic and chilli flakes (optional), then add the meat removed from a few pork sausages. Fry until golden brown; breaking the sausage meat down a little, as you would for a bolognese. Add a cup of chicken stock and leave on a slow boil for a few minutes. Turn the heat to low before adding up to half a cup of cream and the juice and zest of a lemon. Pop your almost cooked pasta in the sauce for an extra minute of cooking and serve garnished with chopped parsley. This is a great family winter meal.
- Puttanesca is a richer version of pomodoro. Just add anchovies, capers, oregano, a little chilli to taste and delicious black Gaeta olives. This sauce has a unique, savoury taste and may be more suited to adults than children. It’s a vegetarian favourite and works well with a hearty red wine.
- Carbonara is a bacon, egg and cheese sauce. The addition of cream is contentious; some say it is essential and others would never use it. Cured pork or bacon is traditional but sliced mushrooms are an excellent substitute for vegetarians. This sauce might need to be a “sometimes” sauce for most of us as its chock full of high cholesterol ingredients.
- Mushroom and sage sauce is an incredibly rich sauce that is perfect for thick ribbon pasta. Simply melt two tablespoons of butter in a pan over low heat, before adding 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 6 chopped sage leaves and 2 cups of sliced mushrooms. Panfry for around 5 minutes or until slightly softened, before add a cup of cream. Heat through, then season with salt and pepper as desired. This sauce works well with a radicchio or other bitter green salad to help balance the heaviness of the sauce.
- Marinara is so easy if you have a good supply of fresh seafood. Tomato based and creamed based marinara are good, but this variation lets the seafood stand out. It only takes two to three minutes in total so the pasta needs to be cooking before the sauce is made. Simply pan fry green prawns, scallops, chopped spring onions and garlic cloves, with a little ground black pepper and a hefty sprinkling of olive oil. When the garlic begins to brown, add a handful of mussels and a splash of white wine. When the mussels open, add your cooked pasta to the pan and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Season with good quality salt to taste. Now that is a dish suitable for an Italian seaside holiday or just a romantic date night at home!
- Cheese sauce is a winner with most kids. A simple combination of butter, gluten free flour, milk and cheese can be used for mac and cheese, in lasagnes or pasta bakes. For an easy bake add chopped fried onion, garlic and bacon or tuna (definitely not both). Pour over pasta shells and sprinkle with gluten free breadcrumbs before baking. Easy and delicious.
Generally when choosing which pasta goes best with your sauce, choose larger pastas for thicker, more robust sauces and thinner pastas for lighter sauces. To help in choosing the best pasta type, check out our pasta pairings blog. GF Pantry now has a large variety of different gluten free pastas to choose from, as well as a few delicious ready-made pasta sauces when you want the convenience of a store bought product.
Whichever sauce you choose, with whatever gluten free pasta you choose, just remember to enjoy it.