Simple, fresh, and tasty, Italian cooking is all about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
If you want to maximize the flavor of a few ingredients, making a sauce is the way to go—check out our list of 22 Italian sauces for pasta, meat, and more!
Between pizza and pasta, Italian cuisine has earned a comfortable first place in the world’s most popular ranking.
Although many classic Italian dishes have found their home on the tables of luxurious restaurants, they trace their humble roots back to simple home cooking in the Italian countryside.
Cucina Povera, or poor kitchen, is an Italian cooking philosophy that highlights using what little ingredients you have to make delicious dishes.
How do you turn a handful of tomatoes and herbs into meals that are good for the whole family?
Make a sauce and use it with pasta, bread, or just about anything!
In this list, you’ll find 22 Italian sauces that can transform any dish into a specialty.
If you love onions, check out Genovese Sauce.
Ragú Napoletano is a meat overload you’ll surely enjoy.
Watch out for #18 for a truly mouthwatering recipe
Look at that beautiful golden color!
Simple and just so delicious, this olive oil sauce is the perfect dip for soft or crusty bread.
Olive oil has a delicate, fruity, rich flavor and aroma that works excellent with basil and oregano.
It’s best with freshly baked bread, but it’s also a great way to liven up reheated bread.
Since this recipe uses a lot of olive oil, good-quality olive oil can make a world of difference.
This sauce requires a bit of love and patience, so it’s best to prepare it in advance.
Both cured and fresh meat—prosciutto, pancetta, and different cuts of beef—are slow-cooked with the tomatoes and other ingredients over very gentle heat.
The meat provides the sauce with its savory and fatty flavor, while the tomatoes add a pleasant brightness and tartness.
Anchovies are small fish with a big flavor profile.
They have a robust, savory taste and aroma, which makes them great if you want to make a tasty sauce with just a few ingredients.
Capers and olives have a fruity and briny taste that works well with tart tomatoes.
This recipe uses salty ingredients, so remember to taste the sauce before adding salt.
Everybody loves a sweet and sour combination!
Balsamic vinegar simmered with sugar, onions, and butter until it turns into a thick reduction.
This concentrates the powerful sweet and sour flavor of the vinegar.
From scratch, this recipe should take you just around 10 minutes.
You can use this sauce as a quick and easy glaze for a fresh Caprese salad on skewers.
Here’s the basil pesto we all know and love.
This one’s famous for a reason: it’s hard to beat the herby, nutty, and rich combination of basil, pine nuts, and olive oil.
The aged flavor of parmesan cheese is the cherry on top of this sauce.
Garden-fresh basil is best for this sauce, but you can also use store-bought.
This sauce has an egg-citing secret ingredient: hard-boiled eggs.
The eggs are blended with parsley, capers, and anchovies to make the sauce nice and thick.
We can thank Italian grandmas for this piece of wisdom.
A touch of lemon juice adds some zest to the sauce.
This sauce makes a fantastic dressing for salads.
If you’re going for Italian food, it’s best to use the beloved San Marzano tomatoes.
This prized Italian regional variety has more sweetness and less acidity compared to other tomatoes.
Try roasting your tomatoes in the oven for an even more flavor.
They get a nice caramelization and give your sauce a depth of flavor.
Enjoy this sauce with grilled chicken, roast vegetables, and other hearty dishes.
You might want to check out our best tomato substitutes here.
8. Ragù Toscano
Sausage, ground pork, beef, prosciutto—this sauce is a meat party.
It starts with soffrito, the foundation of many Italian dishes: sauteed onions, celery, and carrots.
Dried porcini mushrooms give the sauce another meaty punch.
While optional in this recipe, Worcestershire and tamari sauce can add a lot of umami to the sauce.
This thick sauce is excellent with fusilli pasta or as a nacho dip.
You’ll gar-like this easy garlic sauce.
It’s Aglio e olio—garlic and oil—but as a dipping sauce.
Imagine this rich, flavorful, herby sauce on toast—instant garlic bread.
You can use it like the usual pasta sauce, but feel free to try it with anything you like.
We love it drizzled over slices of steak, chicken breast, and shrimp.
10. Salsa Di Noci
This recipe is a great use for stale bread.
After a quick dip in milk, the bread is pulsed with walnuts, pine nuts, and herbs.
The nuts give the sauce a creamy, rich texture.
Parmesan cheese adds a savory component to the sauce.
Lightly toasting the walnuts and pine nuts in a dry pan helps extract their oils and minimizes their bitterness.
Is it still pesto if it’s brown instead of the usual green sauce?
It sure is!
Pesto refers to how the ingredients are crushed or pounded to make a sauce, so this one definitely counts.
It is made by blending lightly toasted almonds with blanched tomatoes together.
The creamy, nutty, and earthy almonds work great with the sweet tang of the tomatoes.
In as fast as 5 minutes, you’ll have a zesty condiment for your yummy dishes.
The main ingredient in this herby green sauce is parsley.
It has a bright, peppery flavor that goes great with the rich and fruity olive oil.
Lemon juice and zest wake up the sauce with its much-needed acidity.
You can add spicy red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
13. Checca Sauce
Try this no-cook tomato sauce for a no-fuss flavor booster.
Using raw tomatoes preserves their fresh fruity taste and crispness.
Aged Caciotta Romana cut up into bite-sized pieces are like balls of tangy, sweet, and milky taste that pop in your mouth.
The Caciotta and soft buffalo mozzarella add a nice texture contrast, which gives exciting variety to each bite.
You can enjoy this sauce as a salad dressing or a topping for oven-toasted bread!
14. Genovese Sauce
French onion soup lovers, this one’s for you!
The chunks of beef are seared on all sides before they are cooked low-and-slow with the onions.
Getting a nice crust on the surface of the meat allows it to develop deep savory flavors.
Plenty of onions give the sauce sweetness and a lot of umami.
Unlike most Italian recipes, this one doesn’t use tomatoes, so you need white wine for some acidity.
This yummy gravy is perfect for roast beef, chicken, or turkey!
Bone marrow is not your usual sauce ingredient, but it just works.
It has a buttery taste and a hint of sweetness.
Beef stock adds another layer of savory flavor to the sauce.
The traditional recipe uses grated stale bread to thicken the sauce, but feel free to use regular store-bought breadcrumbs.
Your guests will love this creamy dipping sauce!
Tomatoes and sour cream are a match made in finger food heaven.
Sour cream has a nice tangy flavor that can elevate bread or fried food.
It goes great with the savory sweetness of the tomatoes.
If you’re out of sour cream, feel free to use cottage cheese or other alternatives.
The cheese will produce a thicker and chunkier sauce, while buttermilk or greek yogurt will make it looser.
17. Bagna Cauda
Intense, rich, and bursting with umami, this blend of anchovies, olive oil, and butter might be your next homemade showstopper.
It’s so easy to make this sauce.
Anchovies are gently heated with garlic and other ingredients.
This allows the garlic to infuse its flavor into the sauce.
It is usually used as a bread dip and an excellent way to enhance the flavor of a simple veggie salad.
If you’re looking for a nutty pasta sauce, this recipe is for you!
Spinach has a mellow sweet flavor and a distinct freshness that pairs well with creamy and earthy almonds.
Parmesan cheese does a good job of contrasting the mild taste of spinach.
Try toasting the almonds first to help make them more fragrant and flavorful.
This tomato sauce’s deep, dark red color just pops on the plate.
You know the flavors of a sauce are so good when it looks so mouthwatering.
Sweet, garlicky Italian sausage is the main protein for this rich sauce.
It is slow-cooked with tomatoes, herbs, and spices until their flavors combine.
Make this sauce recipe your own by using any fresh or dried herbs you like.
20. Alfredo Sauce
This homemade Alfredo Sauce recipe is luxuriant with tons of cream and spices, featuring garlic and onion powder, asiago, and parmesan.
The Italian seasoning elevates the sauce even more, while heavy cream and butter add richness.
When it’s ready to place, toss some cooked pasta and top it with sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, or sun-dried tomatoes.
If you’ve never tried this Lemon Aioli Sauce before, prepare to be wowed!
It combines ingredients that you probably already have stocked in your pantry.
Also, the recipe doesn’t feature eggs; the combination of mayo and sour cream will bring that creaminess to the sauce.
Eat it with smashed potatoes, veggies, chicken strips, or chicken wings.
You’ll need lemons, butter, garlic, pepper, dried thyme, and salt for this flavor-packed Italian sauce.
Add this flavorful, buttery, and robust lemon sauce on top of fish or chicken, or use it as a dipping sauce for baked chicken wings.
The bottom line
The secret to Italian sauces‘ hearty and comforting flavors is simple preparation using high-quality ingredients.
Pasta is the usual pairing for these sauces, but you can mix and match them with different proteins since they are so versatile.
You’re welcome to recheck our list if you ever need simple yet satisfyingly delicious sauces.
- Olive Oil Dipping Sauce
- Ragú Napoletano
- Puttanesca Sauce
- Agrodolce Sauce
- Pesto Alla Genovese
- Salsa Verde With Parsley & Capers
- San Marzano Tomato Sauce
- Ragù Toscano
- Garlic Dipping Sauce
- Salsa Di Noci
- Pesto Alla Trapanese
- Checca Sauce
- Genovese Sauce
- Creamy Tomato Italian Dip
- Bagna Cauda
- Spinach Basil Pesto
- Ragu Di Salsiccia
- Alfredo Sauce
- Lemon Aioli Sauce
- Lemon Pepper Sauc
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