The 20 Best Pasta Sauces, According to Our Readers

As pasta people well know, a pot of al dente noodles provides a canvas for unlimited worlds of flavor. From bright tomato sauces, like traditional marinara and spicy arrabbiata, to creamy Alfredo or a vibrant pesto, your options for saucing are anything but limited. Dressing your pasta can be as comforting as slipping into your favorite, worn-in sweater or as exhilarating as piecing together a new favorite outfit with items that've been hiding in the back of your closet. How you ultimately sauce your pasta is, of course, up to you — but if it's up to us, you'll use the very best version of whatever sauce you choose. Here, we've pulled together our reader-favorite recipes for 20 classic pasta sauces to save you from second-guessing. After all, it is all about the sauce.

looking down at a bowl of rigatoni noodles topped with arrabbiata sauce
Photo: dotdash meredith food studios
01 of 20

Best Marinara Sauce Yet

overhead view of marinara sauce in a large skillet
Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Marinara is what we most often think of when we hear "tomato sauce." Use it for any type of pasta dish — coating a simple spaghetti with meatballs, or layering with stuffed shells or lasagna. This recipe highlights how beautiful a simple combination of ingredients can be.

02 of 20

Alfredo Sauce

creamy-looking fettuccine Alfredo with chopped parsley

Five ingredients and 20 minutes are all you need to enjoy this highly comforting restaurant-favorite at home. When it comes to creamy pasta dishes, it's hard to beat Alfredo. And given that this sauce recipe is backed with close to 4000 five-star reviews, it's especially hard to beat this Alfredo.

03 of 20

Bolognese Sauce

a bowl of rigatoni rigate topped with Bolognese sauce, garnished with chopped parsley
Chef John's Bolognese Sauce. Kim's Cooking Now!

Chef John dedicates this recipe to the great Marcella Hazan, who's often considered the Julia Child of Italian cuisine. The recipe calls for simmering aromatics, vegetables, and beef in milk and white wine — then, simmering further with hand-crushed plum tomatoes — until an outstanding meat sauce emerges hours later. It may take a bit of time, but trust us, it's worth it.

04 of 20

Penne with Spicy Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce

close up view of Penne with Spicy Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce garnished with fresh herbs in a white bowl

If you're looking for a pasta sauce that screams "special occasion," here it is. This spicy vodka sauce is as decadent as it is dynamic and Allrecipes users absolutely love it.

05 of 20


close up view of Pesto in a bowl

This Allrecipes-favorite pesto sauce deviates just slightly from the traditional pesto archetype in that it calls for parsley, in addition to basil. The fresh parsley adds a touch of herbaceous oomph, but it's not an absolute must. If you'd prefer to keep it classic, simply replace the parsley with additional fresh basil.

06 of 20

Sugo di Pomodoro (Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce)

This most simple and versatile Italian tomato sauce is delicious as-is, and is also easily customized. It serves as an incredible base for any additional flavor agents you have in mind — from anchovies to various herbs. Allrecipes users have found this recipe to be a perfect use for their garden-fresh tomatoes.

07 of 20

Arrabbiata Sauce

looking down at a bowl of rigatoni noodles topped with arrabbiata sauce
dotdash meredith food studios

For those who prefer their tomato sauce with a kick, Arrabiata is the way to go. "Awesome sauce! No changes needed," says Allrecipes user hprescott. "Made with sweet Italian sausage and it was delicious!!! Will make again and again!"

08 of 20

Spaghetti Carbonara

closeup of creamy-looking spaghetti with bacon, garnished with parsley and served on a red plate

Made correctly, this famous bacon-and-egg pasta is one of the most satisfyingly silky noodle dishes you'll experience. While the recipe calls for spaghetti, you can use any long noodle of your choice — bucatini, linguine, and even fettuccine all work great.

09 of 20

Four Cheese Sauce

pasta with four cheese sauce

Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, and Romano cheeses merge forces in a rich and flavorful sauce you'll come to again and again.

10 of 20

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

Amatriciana traditionally refers to a tomato-based sauce that highlights guanciale. If you have trouble finding guanciale at your local supermarket, you can substitute pancetta or cubed bacon.

11 of 20

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef

closeup of a plate of spaghetti topped with sauce
Calvin Knaff

According to recipe creator Hank's Mom, "This recipe has been handed down from my mother. It is a family favorite and will not be replaced!" She notes that the Allrecipes reader-favorite recipe can be served over any variety of hot cooked pasta.

12 of 20

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Photo by: Tammy. Photo by: Tammy

This humble sauce from Naples leans on simple pantry staples to create an unctuous, highly satisfying dish. The flavor highlights are olive oil and toasted garlic — so use your favorite olive oil and don't rush the toasting process.

13 of 20


Featuring anchovies, capers, and olives, this pungent sauce is abundant with rich, briny notes. Allrecipes user Bev Hesse-Hearn says, "i ha[v]e been making this for years! my favorite easy fabulous recipe."

14 of 20

Chef John's Sunday Pasta Sauce

close up view of pasta with Pasta Sauce garnished with cheese and fresh herbs in a white bowl, with sausage in a white baking dish and bread in the background
Chef John

The real beauty of a Sunday sauce is that it can include any number of elements; the one essential element, as most Italian-Americans will agree, is time. Time spent gently simmering on the stove, allowing flavors to marinate. Chef John's rendition entails beef shank, spareribs, and chicken thighs, which yields an incredibly savory meat sauce you'll be tempted to make every week.

15 of 20

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Translating to "cheese and pepper," cacio e pepe is a notably simple dish in terms of ingredients going in, but it's outstanding in terms of the final results. This 5-ingredient recipe is well worth practicing until perfect.

16 of 20

Spaghetti alla Gricia

Only three ingredients are required to create this lustrous pasta sauce, hailing from the Lazio region of Italy: guanciale, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese. The key to creating the dish lies in combining these staple ingredients with care. You'll be amazed at the results.

17 of 20

The Best Clam Sauce

close up view of pasta with clams, cheese and fresh herbs on a plate
B. Tario

"This clam sauce is better than any you can find at a restaurant. My boyfriend begs me to make this," says recipe contributor Jodie B. "Thanks, Mom!"

18 of 20

Salsa di Noci

Walnuts, fresh herbs, garlic, and Pecorino Romano cheese are the pillars of this incredible cream sauce. Even if it's not one you're familiar with, it's one worth trying as soon as possible.

19 of 20

Fra Diavolo Sauce with Linguine

Fra diavolo is a spicy tomato sauce traditionally seasoned with garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes or chile peppers. Typically, this sauce is paired with seafood — most often, shellfish — such as shrimp, scallops, and mussels. This 5-star version from Allrecipes user Stephanie Duncan is a mouthwatering introduction to the dish.

20 of 20

Chef John's Spaghetti al Tonno

close up view of Spaghetti al Tonno, pasta with red sauce in a pan
Ann Leroux

"Spaghetti al tonno is one of my all-time favorite go-to pasta dishes. I love a classic meat sauce as much as the next half-Italian, but when I want something quick and easy for a weeknight meal, I reach for the tuna," says Chef John. "What if you don't like fish? Then this is perfect. The taste and texture is really closer to a veal sauce than one made with fish."

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