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It's Not Just Popcorn!

Italian Sauces (Part 1)

on July 18, 2010

When most people think of Italian sauces they usually think of the tomato sauce, marinara sauce, alfredo sauce and probably white clam sauce. But there are so many more sauces out there  that are all wonderful in their own way. Growing up in my house my mother used to serve us a quick spaghetti meal we called Aiole. It was a basic olive oil and garlic sauce. Simple and fast and it was delicious. I am going to go through most of the basic sauces out there and hopefully put in some pictures so you know what they look like. I will have the second half of them next week so keep an eye open for them!

ALFREDO: Alfredo sauce is rich with heavy cream, butter, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is best known when used with fettuccine. Love the sauce, hate the fat and calories! A luxury I must have every so often. You don’t have to limit it to fettuccine either, use it on any kind of pasta you want. Usually the heavier pastas do best. Throw some chicken or shrimp in there as well and it gets even better!

Fettuccine Alfredo

AGLIO E OLIO: This is a traditional Italian sauce (it’s what we called Aiole) that can be made on a budget. This is probably why we had it so often. It is said to have originated in the isolated region of Abruzzo but it is popular everywhere in Italy. It is usually served with spaghetti (that’s how we had it) and the sauce is made by lightly sautéing minced or pressed garlic in olive oil, sometimes adding dried red pepper flakes. You can also add finely chopped fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.

Aglio e Olio

ARRABBIATA: Arrabbiata is Italian for “angry”. This is a zesty tomato based sauce that gets its heat from chili peppers. It is basically a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. Basil is used sometimes though most chefs in Italy don’t use it. This dish is usually served with pasta and chopped fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

Spaghetti Arrabbiata

BOLOGNESE: Bolognese sauce is a robust meat sauce also known as ragù (no not the jar sauce!). It is a hearty sauce with ground beef or pork, pancetta, tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and celery. The sauce is sometimes enhanced by adding a little bit of wine, cream and seasoning. This sauce originated in Bologna, Italy where the natives traditionally serve it with freshly made tagliatelle and their traditionally green lasagna. Spaghetti alla Bolognese is a form that is popular outside of Italy which consists of a meat sauce served on a bed of spaghetti with a good sprinkling of grated Parmigiano cheese. What is really funny about this version is that it never really existed in Bologna, where the sauce is always served with tagliatelle or lasagna (egg pastas). Spaghetti is a durum wheat pasta from Naples.

Spaghetti Bolognese

CARBONARA: Carbonara is another popular sauce that is usually made with eggs, cream, Parmesan cheese and bits of bacon. Many times this sauce also has green peas in it as well. Usually served with spaghetti it is also used on fettuccine, rigatoni or bucatini. Recipes vary but all agree that cheese, eggs, cured fatty pork (pancetta) and black pepper are basic. Origins of this dish are obscure and it has many legends about it. It was created in the middle of the 20th century so it’s not that old as far as sauces go.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

CLAM SAUCE: The most popular clam sauce is the white version. Usually served with linguine this popular sauce has minced clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and parsley. There is also a thin tomato sauce with minced clams. You don’t usually see this recipe on menus much. Some versions use whole clams and hot pepper flakes.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

GENOVESE/PESTO: I don’t think I’ve ever really heard of a Genovese sauce before. Most of us know this sauce as Pesto. The name means it originates from Genoa (imagine that!), which is a coastal city in NW Italy. Genovese/Pesto sauce is an uncooked sauce traditionally made of fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. It didn’t really become popular in North America until the 1980s and 1990s.

Fettuccine with Pesto Sauce

GREMOLATA: Ok here is another sauce I never heard of anywhere. It is more of a chopped herb condiment. It’s typically made of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest. Traditionally it’s used as an accompaniment to the Italian classic Osso Buco (braised veal shank). The citrus element in this actually makes it a great addition to seafood dishes as well!

Gremolata Sauce

MARINARA: This is the classic Italian tomato sauce. It’s seasoned with onions, garlic and oregano, and basil. It’s a favorite on pasta, pizza and meats. This is another sauce that has many variations. Some of them even call for adding capers, olives and spices. Italians refer to marinara only in association with other recipes. Spaghetti alla marinara literally translates to mariner’s spaghetti. However, tomato sauce is called salsa al pomodoro which includes marinara sauce as well as other tomato-based sauce. Marinara sauce was invented by cooks aboard Neapolitan ships in the mid-1500s after the Spaniards introduced the tomato (a New World vegetable) to Europe! This is a very easy sauce to make and it resists spoiling due to the high acid content of the tomatoes. This is why it was ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before we had refrigeration! This sauce is great on so many pastas as well as chicken, pork, veal, fish, you name it!

Ravioli Marinara

MORE SAUCES NEXT SUNDAY!!


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