7 Pasta Sauce Recipes You Should Know How to Cook Because You’re Better than a Can

So you made your own pasta. You rolled it out into golden sheets of dough and sliced it all into beautiful ribbons. You dipped them in a pot of boiling water and came out with the most glorious, tender slivers of pasta. And then, you whipped out the canned tomato sauce.

Please. Your pasta deserves better. Even if you opt for boxed spaghetti, a homemade sauce will make you feel like Mario Batali — minus, you know, the multimillion-dollar empire. We’ve rounded up the essential sauces to start with, from a simple brown butter to a hearty ragu. They’ll be your lifelong mainstays, the ones you turn to when you have next to nothing in your pantry. Whip them up, put them in your recipe box, and keep them close at hand — these sauces will never fail you.

Image: Lady and Pups

by Lisa Siva

Brown Butter

Remember the butter garlic sauce your mom used to make? This is better. Slide a knob of butter into a pan, along with fresh herbs, salt, or whatever your heart desires — you’ll know it’s done when it’s the color of burnt caramel, with a nutty aroma that brings you to your knees. Thanks, How Sweet Eats!

Image: How Sweet Eats

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe is just cheese and pepper, all bound together with a little of the water you boiled your pasta in. It’s the easiest of weeknight meals, but you’ll feel fancy because it’s Italian. Juls’ Kitchen has the recipe.

Image: Juls’ Kitchen


There are a lot of legends surrounding puttanesca sauce, but they mostly come down to Italian prostitutes. Some say they needed pasta in a flash; others say they lured in clients with the smell — and we say you need this anchovy-infused, caper-studded sauce in your weeknight rotation, stat. Five and Spice breaks it down.

Image: Five and Spice


While we love the copious amounts of cheese and bacon (guanciale, if we’re being traditional), the true genius of carbonara is the egg yolk on top. Break it, and you’ll have a second, gloriously golden sauce, à la Pass the Sushi.

Image: Pass the Sushi


When in doubt, a bright, herb-filled marinara is always a good idea. Pinch of Yum whips hers up with a touch of red wine.

Image: Pinch of Yum


Everyone likes alfredo — mostly because it’s creamy and cheesy and everything that’s good in life. Back to Her Roots has a lightened-up version with Greek yogurt, but if you feel like indulging, don’t skimp on the cream.

Image: Back to Her Roots


So you’ve mastered your cacio e pepe and your carbonara — now, let’s take things to the next level. Bolognese is a tender meat sauce, the kind that you make on lazy Sundays. It takes time — but luckily, we have our friends at Lady and Pups to see us through. Ready? You got this.

Image: Lady and Pups