Distinguishing between Italian tomato sauces can be difficult, unless you grew up in Italy or have an Italian grandmother! Most of us read the menu carefully at our local Italian restaurant to determine which Italian tomato sauce is the one we would most enjoy. Or we may even be bold enough to ask the waitress to differentiate between the sauces. With a little review, the next time you walk into your favorite Italian restaurant, you will be ready to order like the natives! And when you're cooking in your own kitchen, you'll have more variety in the pastas you prepare.
Italian tomato sauces come in a multitude of varieties, but the essence of distinguishing between them is the knowledge of what ingredients go into each sauce. A marinara sauce is one of the most simple, made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and herbs like oregano and basil. Marinara sauce is often thinner than other Italian sauces.
A Bolognese sauce is a meat sauce which often starts with a base of vegetables, and later in cooking adds chunks of meat and tomatoes. Bolognese sauces are often served with heartier pastas.
Puttanesca adds onions, olives, capers and anchovies to the marinara-like tomato base. Puttanesca is sometimes served with an additional fish such as tuna or salmon.
Sundried tomato sauce uses tomatoes that have been fully dried and then chopped and often combined with olive oil and herbs for a flavorful topping to pasta. Sundried tomato sauce is usually not a red sauce, but rather an olive oil-based topping with bits of dried tomato added.
You are now ready to cook Italian sauces, or order like a native in a restaurant. With great confidence, go into your local Italian restaurant and order your favorite tomato sauce like a pro. If you still have any questions when it comes to cooking or ordering sauces at a restaurant, check out a cookbook or ask your waiter!