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Pasta Sauce vs Spaghetti Sauce

The difference between pasta sauce and spaghetti sauce should be like knowing your left from your right. It’s just essential for creating perfect Italian cuisine. Now, they may sound and seem similar, but the proof is in the pudding, as you’ll soon find out.

Let’s dive deeper into everything between pasta sauce and spaghetti sauce. We’ll explore their origins, their ingredients, and how to use each sauce to create delicious Italian dishes.

What Is the Difference Between Pasta Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?

When it comes to Italian cuisine, pasta and spaghetti rule supreme as the two most popular dishes. The sauces they’re paired with are equally important as the dish itself, though many see them as interchangeable when, in fact, they’re not.

Let’s break them down. Pasta sauce is a broad term that refers to basically any sauce that’s served with pasta. This may include tomato-based sauces, cream-based sauces, pesto, and more, with some having a slightly spicy flavor and others with a rich, creamy taste.

Spaghetti sauce, though, is a much more specific type of pasta sauce that’s traditionally made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs and is made only for spaghetti. When it comes to pairing pasta and sauce, there are some general rules you should take into account.

A thicker, heavier sauce like spaghetti sauce pairs well with thicker, heartier pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine. While lighter sauces like pesto or olive oil-based sauces pair well with lighter, thinner pasta like angel hair or linguine.

What Is Pasta Sauce?

Pasta sauce is essentially a sauce made from tomatoes or peppers, and various herbs and spices depending on the region of origin. A pasta sauce is used to dress various different noodles, and even within one country (such as Italy), there are different versions of it depending on the region and general personal preferences.

They can be made with fresh, dried, or canned tomatoes or peppers, and can either be cooked or uncooked depending on the final dish. Each type has its own unique flavor and texture, with some being better suited for certain types of pasta than others.

What Is Spaghetti Sauce?

As the name of the sauce suggests, it’s a type of pasta sauce that’s specifically designed to be used with spaghetti noodles. It’s a tomato-based sauce typically seasoned with basil, oregano, and garlic. Some spaghetti sauces may also contain meat, such as ground beef or Italian sausage, but this is generally referred to as a meat sauce rather thna a spaghetti sauce.

It’s a very popular choice for those who want a quick and easy meal, as it can be found in most grocery stores and is available in various flavors and styles. Some spaghetti sauces can even be thick and chunky, while others are smooth and creamy.

Types of Pasta Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a classic Italian sauce made with simple ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, and olive oil. Some variations of marinara sauce may include additional ingredients such as red pepper flakes, capers, or olives.

It’s commonly used as a base for pasta dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and baked ziti, but it can also be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or as a topping for pizza.

Alfredo Sauce

This sauce is a rich and creamy sauce that originated in Italy. The sauce is made with butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese and is typically seasoned with garlic and black pepper. It’s commonly used in pasta dishes like fettuccine Alfredo, chicken Alfredo, and shrimp Alfredo, but can also be used as a topping for baked potatoes or a dipping sauce for breadsticks.

Pesto Sauce

You’ve mostly heard about this type of pasta sauce. It’s another classic Italian sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. The sauce is typically made by blending the ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. The result? A vibrant green sauce that’s full of flavor.

It’s commonly used with dishes like spaghetti with pesto, penne with pesto, and pesto lasagna but can also be used as a topping for pizza or as a spread for sandwiches.

Carbonara Sauce

Carbonara sauce is another Italian sauce made with eggs, bacon or pancetta, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. It’s often used in pasta dishes such as spaghetti carbonara, fettuccine carbonara, and linguine carbonara, but like bolognese, it can also be used as a topping for pizza or as a filling for calzones.

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce, also known as ragù alla bolognese, is a meat-based sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy. The sauce is typically made with ground beef or pork, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and red wine and is mostly used in pasta dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, and tagliatelle alla bolognese. It can also be used as a topping for pizza or as a filling for calzones.

Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy Italian sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. You can use it in pasta dishes such as penne arrabbiata, spaghetti arrabbiata, and rigatoni arrabbiata or as a normal dipping sauce for breadsticks and as a topping for pizza.

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Janet

Friday 14th of June 2024

Under your heading, "What is pasta sauce?", you write, "Pasta sauce is essentially a sauce made from tomatoes, herbs, and spices." Then under spaghetti sauce, you write, "It’s a tomato-based sauce typically seasoned with herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, and garlic." This sounds the same. I think there may be an error here. Thanks!

Perfect Sauces

Sunday 16th of June 2024

Hi, Janet! They are very similar sauces - the main difference is in that spaghetti sauce is a more particular sauce flavored with specific herbs & spices (basil, oregano, and garlic); whereas depending on where it's produced on consumed, pasta sauces can be made more plain or flavorful, and are often made with additional ingredients like sugar, cream or cheese, and even peppers as a standard ingredient in that region. Hope that clarifies things, as I agree that we could word it a bit more clearly!

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