This pink sauce pasta recipe is an attempt to recreate a mind-blowing dish I ate in Italy in 1997. It’s easy to make, tastes divine, and is one of the greatest pasta recipes of all time. And the best thing is, you probably already have all of the needed ingredients!
What is Pink Sauce?
Pink sauce, also known as a red sauce, rose sauce, or blush pasta sauce, is a tangy tomato cream sauce. What sets pink sauces apart from marinara sauces is the addition of heavy cream.
Like I just said, the key ingredient for this sauce is heavy creme. Some blush sauce recipes substitute heavy cream for half and half, but we’re not afraid of calories. Eat guilt-free. You’ve cooked it. You deserve it. Fuggetaboutit.
Feeling a Little Saucy
We all loathe the recipe posts that force the reader to peruse a long, saccharin story about the first time they sipped hot chocolate from an artisan stoneware mug while sitting in a hand-made, rough-hewn rocking chair on the porch of the log cabin their ancestors built with the help of a forgotten local indigenous tribe.
The last thing I want to do is contribute to this recipe problem. BUT believe me when I say that I must regale to you an honest, one-sentence story about why this rose pasta sauce is so important to me.
In 1997, I traveled to Cortina, Italy, and while I was there, I ate the most flavorful, memorable, and satisfying pink sauce pasta recipe of all time.
This is that recipe.
What’s the Difference Between Pink Sauce and Vodka Sauce?
Vodka Sauce has vodka in it, and Pink Sauce doesn’t. Most canned vodka sauces at the grocery store don’t actually have vodka added. If you want to make this sauce, add 2-4 ounces of vodka during the sauce-cooking phase.
Side note: Alfredo sauce is different from pink pasta sauce because it has no tomatoes in it, and is therefore considered a white sauce pasta.
Pink Sauce Pasta Recipe Tips & Tricks:
Consider the following tips for the tastiest blush sauce pasta meal possible:
1. Don’t Use Angel Hair Pasta
I find myself rarely if ever, cooking with angel hair pasta. It’s too delicate and easy to overcook. The kind of pasta you use matters, so avoid thinner kinds of pasta and instead use spaghetti, rotini, linguine, fettuccini, or even small shell pasta noodles.
I use spaghetti noodles.
2. Garnish With Freshly Grated Cheese
Don’t use the stuff in the can. For a more authentic cheese topping, substitute the canned parmesan for some freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, or romano cheese. You can easily find these at your local grocery store deli.
3. Garnish with Fresh Herbs
Nothing is more Italian than fresh basil. Grab a few basil sprigs from your garden or local grocery store. Chop a few leaves and save for a garnish or toss in with the sauce. You can’t go wrong either way. You can always substitute fresh basil for dried basil.
4. Add Meat to the Sauce
If you’re anything like my family, you love meat. So feel free to add meat to this recipe with reckless abandon. I’d suggest buying pre-made frozen meatballs. Prepare them via the directions and then toss them into the sauce at the very end. Another common meat inclusion is Italian sausage.
If you want a truly Italian experience, use cured Italian ham, pancetta, or prosciutto. Finely chop the meat, saute it in olive oil until crispy, and then add to the sauce.
5. Add Vegetables to the Sauce
If you’d like to make a fiber-rich dish, add some vegetables. The two vegetables I’d suggest are spinach or zucchini, though some people swear by red bell peppers. Go with one or the other.
Zucchini adds a nice, soft crunch, and the chopped zucchini’s subtle, sweet flavor complements the red sauce’s tanginess. Chop the zucchini and sweat it in olive oil for a few minutes before adding to the pink sauce.
If you’re using spinach, add a few handfuls of frozen spinach to the red sauce and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Up the Spiciness of the Pasta Sauce
Add a few teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce and cook for a few minutes. This will give your sauce a nice kick.
What Should I Serve With My Pasta?
Wine. Lots of red wine. It’s hard to go wrong with pasta sides. Consider my favorite options:
1. Garlic Bread
Salty, crunchy garlic bread is a no-brainer. Just buy the store-bought, frozen kind and bake while your pasta is cooking.
2. Prosciutto e Melone (Prosciutto and melon)
If you’d like an authentic, multi-course meal, consider serving prosciutto-wrapped melon slices as a starter. This is a common, tasty Italian appetizer, and the flavors will amaze you, I promise. Slice a cantaloupe into 8 even slices. Wrap the melon in prosciutto, pin with a toothpick, and serve. Try this recipe.
How to Make This Recipe:
- 1 box of spaghetti noodles
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (2 for cooking, 1 for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- Salt and black pepper (for taste)
- Chopped fresh basil (for garnish)
- Fresh grated parmesan (for garnish)
Step 1: Cook the Pasta
You always get the best pasta if you follow the instructions on the back of the pasta box, so forget what you think you know and just cook the pasta according to the directions.
- Cook until the pasta is al dente. Meaning–slightly undercooked. Later, you’ll be adding the pasta to your pasta sauce, where it’ll cook for another minute or so and become the perfect texture.
- Drain the pasta and save one cup of the pasta water.
Tip: Don’t add oil to the boiling pasta. This is a common error. If you do this, you’ll make it hard for the sauce to stick to the noodles. Instead, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and stir every few minutes while the pasta cooks. The pasta will NOT stick to itself.
Step 2: Make the Creamy Tomato Sauce
In a medium saucepan, saute the garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil, on medium heat, for 4-5 minutes. Garlic burns easily! So make sure you’re cooking using medium heat, stirring often.
Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a light simmer. Cover the sauce, reduce the heat, and cook for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Letting the sauce thicken is an essential part of the cooking process.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the heavy cream. Your sauce will change from deep red to a pinkish color.
Continue to cook, always be stirrin, until the sauce begins to boil lightly.
Step 3: Add Pasta to Sauce
Grab your cooked pasta and add it directly to the sauce in the saucepan. Next, add the reserved cup of pasta water. Stir the noodles into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes over medium to medium-high heat.
It’s time to eat! Add the desired amount of pasta to your bowl, garnish with basil, parmesan cheese, and a dash of olive oil. Bon Appetit!
Pink Sauce Pasta Recipe
- Step 1: Cook the PastaCook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Tip: Don't add oil to the boiling pasta. Instead, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and stir every few minutes while the pasta cooks. The pasta will NOT stick to itself. Cook until the pasta is al dente.Drain the pasta and save one cup of the pasta water.
- Step 2: Make the Creamy Tomato SauceIn a medium saucepan, saute the garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil, on medium heat, for 4-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a light simmer. Cover the sauce, reduce the heat, and cook for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.Add the heavy cream and bring the sauce back to simmer.
- Step 3: Add Pasta to SauceGrab your cooked pasta and add it directly to the sauce in the saucepan. Next, add the reserved cup of pasta water. Stir the noodles into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes over medium to medium-high heat.It's time to eat! Add the desired amount of pasta to your bowl, garnish with basil, parmesan cheese, and a dash of olive oil. Bon Appetit!
Blush pasta sauce frequently asked questions
Can I add tomato paste to the recipe?
Of course, you can. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the cooked garlic and saute for a minute or two. Then, proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Can I make my own tomato puree?
I’m all about people making ingredients from scratch. Using your own tomatoes to make a creamy sauce is the way to go.
FYI, the Italian name for an uncooked, tomato puree is Tomato Passata. First, slice 6-8 large tomatoes into quarters, toss them in a blender, and saute until smooth. Next, move to a saucepan, add olive oil, salt & pepper, Italian seasoning, and bring to a boil.
Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Is this your new favorite comfort food? Do you hate it? Do you have any pasta sauce recipe tips?
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