As someone who doesn't love to cook, I've consumed countless bowls of pasta, because, let's face it, boiling a pot of water and tossing in a handful of dried pasta is the universally accepted alternative to ordering in. Now, you can blame it on the fact that I finally invested in a Dutch oven, but I recently decided that it was time for me to put down the Trader Joe's jarred Pomodoro and put in the (minimal) extra effort required to make my own pasta sauces.
So, after putting dozens of recipes to the test, I'm finally sharing the easy pasta sauces that I keep on constant rotation. Spanning chorizo bolognese to arugula pesto, these homemade recipes are infinitely better than the store-bought varieties. Consider yourself warned—these mouthwatering recipes will have you stocking your pantry with canned tomatoes stat.
Here are our picks for the best pasta sauces to add to your arsenal.
Chorizo Bolognese Pasta With Sourdough Pangrattato
If I'm being honest, Half Baked Harvest's recipe for chorizo bolognese pasta with sourdough pangrattato had me at "chorizo." With a richer, more intense flavor than ground beef, this spicy pork sausage is what sets this homemade bolognese apart from the rest. Recipe creator Tieghan Gerard describes this divine sauce as "Spanish meets Italian," and I'm here for it.
Pro Tip: The bolognese is even better the next day, so it's perfect for make-ahead meal planning.
Pappardelle With Roasted Butternut Squash–Tomato Ragu
This isn't your ordinary ragu. Rather than simmering on the stovetop, Half Baked Harvest's butternut squash-and-tomato ragu is roasted in the oven. The unconventional cooking method elevates canned tomatoes to new heights. Trust me, when paired on a pan with diced butternut squash, a splash of red wine, and a handful of aromatic herbs, the humble pantry staple really shines.
Pro Tip: If you're not a fan of pappardelle, rigatoni is another recommended pasta option.
No-Guilt Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo
When I'm in the mood for lighter Italian fare, I turn to this no-guilt broccoli fettuccine Alfredo recipe by Half Baked Harvest, which swaps traditional cream with protein-packed hummus. It might sound odd, but when topped with roasted broccoli and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese, it's almost better than the real thing.
Pro Tip: To make this recipe vegan, substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan.
Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Chive Pesto
Bright green and slightly bitter, this broccoli rabe and chive pesto is so good that it has me counting down the days to spring when this produce will be at its peak. Sure, your standard basil and pine nut pesto is good, but trust me, The First Mess's recipe for orecchiette with broccoli rabe and chive pesto is even better. Bonus: It's vegan!
Pro Tip: Gluten-free pasta or sauteed zucchini noodles can be used in place of the orecchiette.
Cooked in a crockpot, Chelsea's Messy Apron's spaghetti bolognese relies on Italian sausage and ground beef to create a hearty, satisfying meat-based sauce. The recipe is designed to feed a crowd (it serves 12), but any leftovers can be chilled and used at a later date in dishes like stuffed peppers, lasagna, or sloppy Joes.
Pro Tip: Chelsea, the recipe's developer, recommends Muir Glen Organic–brand fire-roasted crushed tomatoes for a "greater depth of flavor."
Pasta With Tomato Cream Sauce
Simple. Classic. This creamy tomato sauce recipe by The Modern Proper hits the spot when I'm craving comfort food. Plus, when topped with freshly chopped cherry tomatoes and a few handfuls of peppery arugula, it's infinitely healthier than a bowlful of mac and cheese. The best part? It's ready in just 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: This sauce would also taste delicious with goat cheese in place of parmesan.
Rigatoni With Mushroom Sauce
The Modern Proper's butter-based mushroom sauce is decadent. Pressed garlic, aromatic herbs, and white wine lend depths of flavor to the rich, creamy sauce that pairs well with hearty pastas like rigatoni and penne. While it's delicious straight out of the pan, it's almost better reheated the next day after the flavors have mingled overnight.
Pro Tip: "You can use any mushrooms available to you for this recipe," note Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer, the recipe's developers. "We go for the wild mushrooms when they are in our local stores, but will also grab cremini or baby bellas."
Three-Ingredient Tomato Sauce
Made with a trio of ingredients (ripe Roma tomatoes, quality olive oil, and a pinch of salt), The Modern Proper's three-ingredient tomato sauce is perfect for those busy weeknights when I need to quickly whip up a last-minute meal. All that's missing is lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Pro Tip: Pour the sauce into an airtight container and park it in the fridge for up to one week.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Borrowed from her grandmother's recipe box, Boulder Locavore's homemade spaghetti sauce is wholesome, delicious, and surprisingly simple to make. Ground beef is sauteed with diced onions, green peppers, and celery, then spiced with chili powder, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Fresh Italian parsley, mushrooms, and canned tomato sauce are poured over top, then the mixture is allowed to simmer over low heat for two hours.
Pro Tip: "To take the edge off the strong tomato flavor, after the pasta sauce has cooked add 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar," advises blogger Toni Dash.
Pumpkin Chipotle Cream Sauce
According to Toni Dash, the blogger behind Boulder Locavore, her recipe for pumpkin chipotle cream pasta sauce can make pumpkin-lovers out of those who typically steer clear of the gourd. The reason? The sauce contains chipotles in adobe, which tempers the sweetness of the pumpkin puree with a spicy, earthy kick. Crème fraiche gives the sauce is irresistible creaminess, while a garnish of toasted pepitas finishes the recipe with a nutty crunch.
Pro Tip: If you'll be whipping up this dish using gluten-free pasta, try Tinkyada-brand rice pasta. "It has good flavor and holds its structure through cooking," says Dash.
Creamy Vegan Carbonara
Silken tofu imparts creaminess to Pickled Plum's recipe for vegan carbonara. The tofu joins miso paste, nutritional yeast, garlic, and spices in a blender to create a smooth white sauce that's then paired with caramelized "bacon" mushrooms and, of course, pasta.
Pro Tip: Reserve one cup of the pasta water and add it to the combined pasta and sauce. This will enhance the flavor and creamy texture of the dish.
Zucchini Pasta With Lentil Bolognese
Served atop spiralized zucchini noodles, Minimalist Baker's lentil bolognese checks its fair share of better-for-you boxes: Not only is it high in fiber and low in carbs, the sauce is vegan and gluten free. Still, the recipe doesn't sacrifice flavor, thanks to its palate-pleasing combo of garlicky lentils and al dente zucchini noodles.
Pro Tip: Garnish the dish with vegan parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
Arugula Pesto Sauce
While traditional pesto calls for basil, Root and Revel's five-minute arugula pesto sauce relies on arugula for a peppery bite. Fresh arugula leaves are combined with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, and seasonings in a food processor, then pulsed until smooth. Use the flavorful paste to coat pasta, top grilled meats, smear on bruschetta, and add a brilliant green hue to every dish.
Pro Tip: "If you want to make this pesto vegan, you can leave out the parmesan cheese and swap in a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead," says Kate Kordsmeier, the recipe's developer.
A versatile sauce with infinite uses, Pinch of Yum's romesco sauce is a minimal-effort, maximum-flavor topping for pasta, grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, eggs, and so much more. The no-cook sauce calls for roasted red peppers, plum tomatoes, raw almonds, fresh flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, all of which take a whirl in the blender until smooth.
Pro Tip: If you use sliced almonds for the sauce, scale back the amount to 3/4 cup.
Cacio e Pepe
The secret ingredient in Sugar and Cloth's cacio e pepe recipe? Pasta water. When added to a pan with butter, freshly grated pecorino Romano, and cracked black pepper, the pasta water (or more precisely, its starch) helps bring the ingredients together into a light and simple sauce that clings beautifully to spaghetti or fettuccine.
Pro Tip: Break out those wine glasses—Recipe developer Alexandra Caspero notes that a "classic Chianti or Sangiovese will balance the peppery pasta just perfectly."
Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This fresh cherry tomato sauce from Feed Me Phoebe couldn't be simpler: First, saute some garlic in a pan with olive oil until golden brown. Then, toss in two pints' worth of halved cherry tomatoes, smushing them as they cook so that they release their juices. After 15 minutes (and adding in some fresh basil), you'll be left with a light, chunky sauce that just begs to be paired with grilled fish, pasta, or toast points.
Pro Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on your garlic as it browns: It can go from golden brown to burnt in a blink.
Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
Who would have guessed that cauliflower would take the starring role in a healthier-for-you Alfredo sauce? In Joyful Healthy Eats's recipe for creamy cauliflower Alfredo sauce, the white-fleshed brassica is steamed, then added to a blender with milk, parmesan, cream cheese, and seasonings. The ingredients are blended into a puree-like consistency that mimics the irresistible creaminess of real Alfredo sauce—without all the fat and calories.
Pro Tip: The finished sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Browned Butter Parmesan Noodles
Buttery, garlicky, and cheesy? I Am a Food Blog's recipe for browned butter parmesan noodles is all of the above—and it comes together in just 20 minutes. Easier still, only four ingredients are needed: butter, garlic, parmesan, and pasta, plus salt and pepper to taste. Serve the dish alongside your favorite protein and a heap of salad greens.
Pro Tip: Double (or triple) the recipe if you're serving more than two.
Browned Butter Fettuccine Alfredo
When allowed to cook over medium heat for five minutes, your basic butter becomes browned butter—a nutty, fragrant, golden-brown variation of itself that can be used in everything from savory sauces to sweet pastries. In Spoon Fork Bacon's recipe for browned butter fettuccine Alfredo, the browned butter adds an element of delicious toastiness to the classic cream sauce.
Pro Tip: If you don't have any heavy cream on hand, you can sub in whole milk.
Vegan Penne Alla Vodka With Roasted Carrot-Tomato Sauce
Roasted carrots, tomatoes, and fennel serve as the foundation for Feed Me Phoebe's vegan penna alla vodka. After baking in the oven for about 40 minutes, the aforementioned veggies are transferred to a blender along with veggie stock, then blended until smooth. Season the sauce to taste, then use it to coat your choice of penne.
Pro Tip: This healthy, veggie-forward sauce doesn't call for vodka, so don't be surprised by its absence from the ingredients list.