What to Put on Pasta Instead of Sauce

by Jane Wangersky | March 6th, 2015 | Cooking Basics

pasta with white sauce (400x400)Pasta and tomato sauce go together so well, we can forget they don’t always have to go together. But if you find yourself with pasta and no tomato sauce — or maybe tomato sauce and no pasta — in the house, you don’t have to choose between making a run to the store or forgetting about it. There are plenty of other ways to serve pasta, and good things to do with pastaless sauce.

This week our focus is pasta. If you have no sauce:

  • Toss pasta with canned diced tomatoes just after it’s cooked. (Of course, if you have those, you can make your own tomato sauce simply by draining them and purée them in the food processor, heating and adding spices, maybe adding some of the drained off juice to thin it if needed.) If they’re seasoned, that’s all you need to do; if not, add at least some salt and pepper.
  • If you have small tomatoes, such as cherry or grape, cut them in half and toss them with the pasta, as above.
  • Before you drain the pasta, put fresh, washed spinach — a bag of spinach salad will be perfect — in the colander. The heat and water will cook the spinach just a little, but that’s enough. Mix it into the pasta thoroughly.
  • Make cheese sauce for it. There are recipes for homemade ones here and here.
  • An even simpler option is plain white sauce (cheese sauce without the cheese).
    Drain some sliced olives and toss them with the pasta. This is good on its own, but also makes a great addition to the tomato options above.
  • Vegetables that can be sautéed quickly — onions, garlic, mushrooms, sweet peppers — or lightly steamed, like broccoli — make a good cooked topping for pasta. (Eggplant can be a little too slow cooking, and summer squash such as zucchini tends to go watery, but if you like them, go ahead.)
  • Add a dash of seasoning, like maybe bouillon powder, to sour cream and mix the whole thing with the drained pasta. Stirring in a little blending flour will help keep the cream from curdling.
  • Mince up a clove of garlic and fry it, for just a couple of minutes, in a lot of butter. Pour the garlic butter over the pasta. You could even combine it with sour cream if you’re up for a really rich dish.
  • Make homemade pesto. Two great options are Red Pepper Pesto and Homemade Basil or Parsley Pesto.

You get the idea — no tomato sauce, no problem.

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