There’s almost nothing I love more than hunkering down with a big bowl of pasta covered in a cheesy sauce (particularly alfredo). This Pink Sauce for Pasta is one of my favorites — it’s creamy yet it has the brightness of a marinara, too, from the tomatoes.
It seems easy enough to buy the store bought vodka sauce or alfredo, but this recipe is so simple you won’t even want to go to the store. Grab a large skillet and simple ingredients in your kitchen and you’ll have dinner whipped up in a hurry.
With a few simple steps, you can easily make that creamy, dreamy sauce that you enjoy at your favorite restaurant. Just toss it over your favorite cooked pasta and — voila — an amazing dinner is on the table.
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Why You Love It
It’s also so easy to customize it. You can make it spicy with some added heat from spices, you can make it thicker or cheesier by adding a touch of cream cheese, or you could add extra sweet tomato goodness by chopping up some fresh cherry tomatoes and adding them.
From simple pasta dishes to fun spicy pastas, this pink sauce recipe will serve as a perfect base for a creamy, decadent pasta night whether it’s a weeknight rush or a weekend date night.
If this is your first time whipping up a creamy pasta sauce at home, have no fear. This is an easy recipe that takes little time and you’ll be so much more excited for dinner than if you popped open that jar!
Pink Sauce for Pasta
Pink sauce is most famous for being served with penne pasta or other tubal varieties, but it can be served with any type of pasta you desire. Due to its thick and robust texture, it makes it easy to stick to nearly any shape or form, even elbow macaroni.
Although sometimes it is more orange or peach than pink. it all depends on how much cream you decide to use.
What is Pink Pasta Sauce?
Similar to a vodka sauce, which became very popular in the 1980’s in the US, this pink sauce is a creamy pasta sauce with a beautiful pink color. It brings all of the rich flavor of a red sauce together with the creaminess similar to an alfredo sauce.
If you love tomato flavor on your pasta but you also adore silkiness slicking the sides of your pasta, this sauce is for you. It’s a cream-based tomato sauce that will brighten your pasta dishes while also imparting all of the creamy goodness.
I toss my pasta with this sauce on the regular for an easy weeknight meal but you can just as easily use it in more complex dishes. It would make a great addition to layers of lasagna.
All you need to do is throw these simple ingredients together, toss it over your favorite pasta, and call it a night. Or, you can also pair it with a simple salad or throw in your favorite vegetables like mushrooms or broccoli.
Why Add Pasta Water to Sauces?
This is a great question that I get all the time. I always encourage home cooks to reserve a little water when making pasta. Pasta water serves several purposes when making Italian dishes.
The first is that it is a slightly starchy liquid which can help to bind or thicken, without being too thick like a slurry. The second is that is has just a tiny bit of flavor. The third, and perhaps most important, is that the Italians beleive that adding pasta water to the sauce will bond the two elements together. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it’s tradition!
At the end of cooking when the water is the most starched and flavored, simply ladle out 1-2 cups into a glass or heat proof measuring cup and set it aside. Many times, you won’t even need it, but you’ll be glad you saved it when you do.
- Olive oil- While olive oil is the best to use for this, unsalted butter will work as well.
- White onion– Any variety of onion you want to use is sufficient, just make sure it is chopped finely.
- Fresh garlic cloves– Chop these up or use your garlic press to get them super fine.
- Plain tomato sauce– You can also substitute tomato paste or tomato puree if you choose — just be mindful of the ratios for substitution.
- Basil– Roughly chop the basil leaves. Fresh is better, but substitutions can be made if dried basil is all you have on hand.
- Chicken bouillon powder– One cube is all you need. Stock will add too much extra moisture, so try to stick with the bouillon.
- Sugar– Use granulated sugar since it dissolves most quickly.
- Coarse kosher salt– This will add way more flavor than table salt so be sure to not skimp on it.
- Half & half – You can also use heavy cream or whole milk, but just pay attention to the consistency.
- Parmesan cheese– You’ll either want to buy this freshly finely grated or grate at home.
- Pasta water, wine, or tap water- That salted water from the pasta is liquid gold but if you’re not making it at the same time you can use the wine or unseasoned water.
How to use Pink Pasta Sauce
- Pasta- Obviously you can dress any pasta with this sauce. Whether it’s cavatappi, fettuccine, or penne, it will stick well, but you can also use it on stuffed pastas like ravioli, manicotti, or stuffed shells.
- Garlic bread- Just dip your garlicky carbs right into this delicious sauce.
- Fresh spinach– For a new take on creamed spinach, toss it with this creamy sauce.
- Meat- Use this as a sauce over grilled chicken, pork chops, or a ribeye.
- Seafood– Just like meat, this sauce works well with any seafood — toss it with shrimp or spread it over any fish.
- Veggies– Dress up roasted broccoli, brussels sprouts, or green beans by drizzling this sauce over top.
- Potatoes- This silky sauce is an upgrade on simple sour cream for a baked potato but it’s also a luscious dip for french fries or perfect drizzled over hasselback potatoes or hash browns.
- Breakfast– Use this amazing sauce to upgrade your morning breakfast or brunch. Substitute it for your typical hollandaise sauce for an over-the-top version of eggs benedict, slip it inside an omelet, or stir it into grits with a sprinkle of mozzarella on top.
- Acid– Use just a bit of white wine or white wine vinegar to add a touch of acidity.
- Heat– Red pepper flakes will add some spice. Cayenne or hot sauce will as well.
- Lemon juice– Add brightness with just a tiny touch of lemon juice or zest at the end of the cooking process.
- Fresh parsley– Garnish with parsley for a bit of color as well as fresh flavor.
Pasta Water Substitutes
You aren’t the first or last person to forget to reserve pasta water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed at myself while draining the pasta making carbonara. The good news is that there are other options.
- Hot water with a pinch of cornstarch or arrowroot. Use 1/4 teaspoon of starch for every 1 cup of hot water.
- Splash of cooking liquid in the sauce– use whatever the sauce calls for which could be wine, cream, milk or broth.
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Bell pepper
- Chopped fresh tomatoes
- Fresh herbs
- Red pepper flakes
Storage & Freezing
Store your homemade pink pasta sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-7 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Other Pasta Sauces
Pink Sauce for Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 white onion chopped
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 15 ounces plain tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder one cube
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup half & half
- 1 tablespoons parmesan cheese finely grated
- 1 cup reserved pasta water wine or tap water
- In a medium saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sauteing until soft and fragrant, approximately 4 minutes. Add the garlic, continuing to saute for 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, basil, chicken bouillon, sugar and salt. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until bouillon and sugar have dissolved.
- Tilt the saucepan to the side and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth and bits of basil remain, approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and parmesan cheese, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. When the sauce starts to simmer, remove from the heat.
- If it needs to be thinned out, slowly add up to 1 cup of reserved pasta water, white wine or tap water.
- If serving with pasta, toss with pasta in the pot and serve while hot.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings section.
Alison Saalbach Corey
A fantastic recipe you have Jessica! Thanks for sharing this!
Love the rich texture and flavor of this pink pasta sauce. Makes a comforting and delicious bowl of pasta.
This pink sauce was soooo good! I love that it came together in 20 minutes and was still full of flavor!
Sisley White - Sew White
It’s so easy and so tasty. Loved by the family.
We LOVE pink sauce and this from scratch version is perfection! Definitely making it again.