Pasta sauce is one of those super supper saviours to pull out when time is tight but you still want a really impressive dinner to serve up to friends and family.
Most of our pasta sauce recipes can be made in bulk, frozen in individual portions and then gently warmed through before serving, for a healthy and hearty homemade ready meal. Then all that's left to do is to toss it through some pasta, maybe add a little freshly cracked black pepper or some parmesan shavings and you're ready to serve.
Dried pasta is of course a fantastic option if you're pulling together a dinner from things you already have in the house, but if you put a little bit of planning fresh pasta will make all the difference. Try choosing the shape to suit the pasta sauce you've picked. Shapes with texture to them, like papppardelle for instance, will catch chunky sauces like ragu beautifully and make sure that every bite is packed full of flavour.
For freezer-proof pasta sauces it's important you pick the right kind. For instance, white wine, shellfish sauces won't freeze well as most of the flavour comes from the shells, which should be cooked and eaten straight away. Tomato-based sauces though are perfect for freezing, and will hardly suffer at all in the process, delivering a delicious plate of food in moments – straight from the freezer.
We think these ideas are nice enough for pulling out at dinner parties even, with just a few fresh tweaks added in at the end so that nobody need know you did all the prep ahead.
Fresh Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella
We couldn't do a round up of our favouite pasta sauce recipes without including a beautiful fresh tomato sauce. Miles better than anything you can buy, this simple pasta sauce idea will elevate dried pasta to something really special in seconds. Keep a few jars of this in the freezer for emergency meals.
How to store and serve: This sauce stores wonderfully well and we like to portion it up into glass jars before freezing. You can heat straight through from frozen since there's no meat in it – just make sure it's nice and hot through. Finish with a few finely chopped fresh tomatoes, some torn basil leaves and a good glug of garlic or chilli oil.
Twists: Although this pasta sauce is delicious as it is, it can be altered in so many different ways, which is why it's topped our list of favourites If you want to keep it vegetarian you could stir through some roasted veggies before serving, or some pan fried mushrooms. For meat eaters some lardons add a deliciously smoky flavour if pan fried and added before serving, but you can also use this simple sauce as the base for a quick Bolognese by browning off some mince before warming the tomato sauce through in a pan with it. A real multi-tasker.
Get the recipe: Fresh Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella
Nduja is Italy's answer to chorizo, and adds a real richness to sauces instantly. Made in minutes, with fresh tomatoes and handfuls of flavour this is one of our favourite pasta sauce ideas and is the perfect recipe to make in bulk, portion up and pull out on busy week nights.
How to store and serve: Make sure your sauce is completely cooled before portioning into individual containers and freezing. When you're ready to enjoy your homemade pasta sauce take a tub out of the freezer, leave in the fridge overnight and warm through until piping hot before stirring through a pasta shape with lots of texture, like the orecchiette that is suggested in our recipe, as they'll catch beautiful bits of the meat, making sure every bite is delicious. Simply finish this dish off with fresh basil, a drizzle of good olive oil and plenty of black pepper.
Twists: If you can't find nduja or don't fancy it, then this sauce also works beautifully with chorizo, or spicy sausage meat, pulled out of the casing and stir fried through the sweet tomato base.
Get the recipe: Nduja pasta sauce
Porcini mushroom sauce
Mushrooms freeze surprisingly well thanks to their meaty texture, and there's no fungi that says 'Italian' more than the classic porcini. With their rich depth of flavour these little mushrooms pack a real flavour punch and give a satisfyingly savoury flavour to this pasta sauce. Instead of pairing these woody mushrooms with cream we've gone for the fresh flavour of tomatoes for a lighter finish.
How to store and serve: Make up the sauce and leave in the pan for a couple of hours, until completely cold. Pop into sandwich bags or freezer-safe boxes and store away for another day. When you fancy serving this pasta sauce simply defrost in the microwave on the appropriate setting or gently warm through on the hob until the mushrooms are hot through. Stir through a simple pasta shape, like penne, for a classic texture and flavour combination. For a final flourish you could simply pan fry a few chunky pieces of mushrooms in butter, until golden, and top your bowl of pasta off with some freshly chopped parsley. Nobody will know that you've pulled most of the dinner out of the freezer just moments before.
Twists: If you don't have porcini mushrooms to hand then you can use other dried mushroom verities to help impart the same depth. You'll have to soak them in warm water to soften up as with the porcinis but then you'll have the beautiful liquid which can be stirred through the sauce, for that powerful mushroom flavour.
Get the recipe: Tomato and porcini mushroom pasta sauce
When it comes to sumptuous pasta sauce ideas, ragu takes the crown for us. Slow cooked and wonderfully rich, this recipe combines classic Italian flavour with an easy recipe that takes minutes to prepare but still has a really beautiful depth to it.
How to store and serve: Once your sauce has cooked down to a thick, rich texture you can cool it in a pan for a couple of hours until properly cold. Then portion this up into an ice cube tray or larger tuppwear boxes and freeze until needed. When you fancy an impressive pasta supper simply defrost overnight, or in the microwave on a gentle heat setting, and then heat in a small saucepan until piping hot. For ragu we love a classic spaghetti shape, but you could plump for something a little posher if you're entertaining. A bucatini captures sauce in its hollow centre and adds a little more texture, too. Top off your plates with some punchy chilli oil, fried garlic chips and some fresh oregano.
Twists: We've used a combination of pork and beef mince in our ragu but you could also diced beef, lamb or pork. You'll have to cook it low and slow until the meat is falling apart and tender but then you'll have a beautifully rich sauce.
Get the recipe: Ragu
Another kind of classic ragu is a sausage version, which combines the flavour of well-seasoned pork with sweet tomatoes for a moreish pasta sauce that guests of all ages will love. The beauty of using sausages in a ragu means you can change the flavour depending on what kind of thing you fancy each time. We love using the classic Italian flavour pairing of fennel and pork sausages, but something a little bit sweet and spicy would work well too.
How to store and serve: Make the recipe up until the step where you are asked to add the cream, this is best added at the last minute before serving, so if you're planning ahead leave this bit out and take up the instructions from here when you're ready to go. Like all dishes with meat in them this pasta sauce should be left to fully cool before portioning up and freezing. We like to pop this into sandwich bags and freeze in individual portions so that it's easy to grab and go for a quick dinner. Heat through well once defrosted, add the cream and fresh parsley, and stir through a pasta shape like fusilli, which is easy to eat but will also capture the sauce beautifully. Finish with a generous helping of parmesan.
Twists: You can use any sausage you fancy, try chorizo, nduja or a smoked sausage for a more complex flavour. If you are dairy intolerant then this dish is just as delicious without the cream and cheese stirred through at the end.