The Different Types of Italian Pasta Sauces

Times Staff Writer

Question: An Italian cooking expert I’m not, so when it comes time to top the various pasta dishes I make I’m at a loss. Could you please explain the differences between the sauces used in Italian cooking? For instance, what exactly are the differences between marinara, pesto and regular tomato sauce?

Answer: The following is a partial list of pasta sauces excerpted and adapted from “A Pocket Guide to Italian Food and Wine” (A Fireside Book--Simon & Schuster: 1986, $5.95) by Spike and Charmian Hughes:

Acciughe-- sauce of anchovies flavored with garlic, oil and parsley;

Aglio e olio-- garlic, olive oil and parsley;

Alfredo-- butter, cream and freshly grated cheese served with fettuccine;

Amatricana-- sauce of fresh tomatoes, chopped bacon, onion and garlic, served with grated Pecorino Romano cheese;


Bolognese-- rich meat sauce flavored with chicken livers, wine, vegetables and nutmeg. Served with butter and grated cheese; sometimes cream is added to the sauce. Also called ragu in parts of Italy other than Bologna;

Burro-- butter and grated Parmesan cheese;

Cacciatore-- meat and vegetable sauce flavored with juniper;

Frutti di mare-- seafood sauce;

Funghi e piselli-- sauce of mushrooms, bacon and fresh green peas;

Marinara-- sauce of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil;

Noci-- pounded walnuts and pine nuts with oil, garlic and chopped parsley;

Pesto-- oil, grated cheese, pine nuts, basil and garlic pounded into a paste;

Pomidoro-- tomato sauce;

Romana-- meat and chicken sauce with chopped mushrooms;

Tartufata-- truffle sauce flavored with Marsala or white wine and garlic;

Umbria-- sauce of pounded anchovies, oil and garlic flavored with tomatoes and truffles;

Vongole-- clam sauce with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.

Q: Could you please print some information on the nutritional and caloric value of pistachios? Are they high in fat?

A: According to the California Pistachio Commission, one ounce of the nuts provides 23% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of thiamine, 17% of phosphorus, 14% of magnesium and 13% of protein. It also provides potassium, iron, Vitamin E and calcium.

Pistachios are high in fiber, low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. One ounce of the nutmeats contains 163 calories.

Q: I have a question on a new milk called Slim ‘N Trim. The clinic where my baby receives care told me to put him on low-fat milk. He likes the taste of this new milk much better than the regular brand low-fat; so do my husband and I. It tastes more like whole milk. Is it as good for my 14-month-old son as other low-fat milks?

It’s funny but I almost worry that it doesn’t taste kind of watery like the milk we drank before, and I want to be sure they don’t add anything harmful to make it taste good.

A: According to Caroline Prichard of Slim ‘N Trim, the milk falls into a new category approved by the state of California about two years ago. It has 1% fat and 12 vitamins and minerals added, compared to the low-fat milk that has been on the market with 2% fat and 10 vitamins and minerals. The two additional ingredients in Slim ‘N Trim are magnesium and zinc.


Prichard assured us there are no artificial thickeners used in the product--the consistency is a result of their blend of milk, vitamins and minerals. She also noted that Slim ‘N Trim is higher in protein than 2% low-fat milks.

A complete nutritional breakdown of the milk can be found on the Slim ‘N Trim carton. Your clinic can best tell you whether this product is as good for your son as other low-fat milks.