By Jackie Freeman

One of the best ways to get weeknight pasta dinners on the table in a hurry is to have a stockpile of heat-and-serve sauces stashed in the freezer. They'll always taste better than anything out of a jar, and all you'll have to do is boil the pasta while the sauce heats up. That could slash a good 45 minutes to an hour off your meal prep. Here are some of our best recipes for make-ahead pasta sauces, plus tips for freezing, thawing, and reheating them.

You Say Tomato...

When we think of pasta sauce, we often think of tomato-based sauces. And for good reason: Bright tomatoes and aromatic herbs pair perfectly with starchy noodles and savory, grated cheese. Tomato sauce can be made with fresh tomatoes when your garden is overflowing, or canned tomatoes when you're short on time and ingredients.

Best Marinara Sauce Yet

Just like the name implies, we think this is the best! This sauce is super-easy to make, with common ingredients found in your cupboard and fridge. Mix it up by adding fresh herbs (like basil, oregano, or marjoram), cooked ground beef or turkey, or use it on your favorite pizza crust instead of pasta.

Photo by Matthew Eccleston

You might also like:

Explore our complete collection of tomato sauces.

Mighty Meaty

Whether you prefer your meat ground or formed into a ball, slowly simmering beef, pork, or turkey in tomato sauce is a classic favorite the world over.

Meat-Lover's Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

Made with ground beef, Italian sausage, and a ton of herbs, this hearty sauce simmers to perfection in your slow cooker without heating up the house. Plus, the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. If it's not sweet enough, feel free to add a pinch or two more sugar.

Photo by CookinBug

You might also like:

Explore our complete collection of meaty pasta sauces.

VIDEO: See How to Make Kay's Spaghetti and Lasagna Sauce

Pesto Power

Best served at room temperature, traditional Italian pesto is an aromatic blend of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. But pesto can be made from a huge range of herbs, nuts, cheeses, and other ingredients: Let your garden and pantry be your guide.


This traditional recipe combines all of the standard stars, plus fresh parsley. Toasting the pine nuts (and letting them cool) before blending is key, as it brings out their natural oils, which means more flavor in your sauce. In addition to pasta, use this pesto on top of grilled fish or chicken, or spread it on a grilled cheese sandwich.

You might also like:

Explore our complete collection of pesto sauces.

Oh So Creamy

Cheese, cream, and butter combine into a bite of heaven. Whether you keep it simple, like Alfredo sauce, or mix in tomatoes, mushrooms, or squash, you'll find these recipes deserve a spot on the table, and even the kids will sing your praises.

Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce

Cream cheese makes this rich white sauce extra smooth. Make sure to use low heat and be patient when stirring in the milk, so nothing burns or curdles. You can also use this sauce to top broccoli, cauliflower, or any of your favorite vegetables, for a creamy, cheesy, and elegant side dish.

Photo by Rabithabit

You might also like:

Explore our complete collection of creamy pasta sauces.

Vegging Out

Sometimes we're in the mood for something a little lighter, or have a bunch of veggies in the fridge that need to be used. In either case, vegetarian pasta sauce is the answer.

Arrabbiata Sauce

If you like things a little spicy, then this is the sauce for you. Onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes are cooked in olive oil and tomatoes, for a light and refreshing pasta topper. Want to add additional color and flavor? Toss in a handful of pitted Kalamata olives or fresh spinach.

You might also like:

Explore our complete collection of vegetarian pasta sauces.

How to Freeze Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce is easy to freeze, and is great to have on hand for quick meals. Here's how to freeze, thaw, and reheat it.

  • Allow your sauce to cool completely before packaging.
  • For larger quantities, place sauce in a quart-size zip-top plastic bag and freeze flat on a baking sheet. Once frozen, you can stack the baggies to save space.
  • If you have small amounts of sauce left (or want single servings), freeze leftover sauce in ice cube trays or greased muffin cups, freeze, then transfer to plastic bags. Don't forget to label each bag with the name and date.
  • Most sauces defrost perfectly overnight in the fridge. You can also defrost and reheat them on low in the microwave, or directly in the pan on the stove top. Some cream sauces might need a little extra whisking to come back together.

Related: How to Safely Freeze, Store, Thaw, and Reheat Foods

More to Explore