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5 ideas for tomato-free pasta sauces

By Brittany Volk
Courtesy of
Avocado Sauce is an easy pasta topper if you’re looking for something light.

Mom may have made most meals in our house, but my father is no stranger to the kitchen. I love remembering the Saturdays my Jersey dad spent brewing Grandmom's recipe for marinara sauce. Every pot was used, red splattered on every surface, the entire house fragrant with delicious Italian seasonings. It was a magnificent kitchen crime scene. However, I'm not about to give away a secret family recipe. So let's forget about the classic tomato pasta topper, and consider these five other sauces.

Brittany Volk, Times staff writer

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

If you haven't roasted garlic, you truly haven't lived. Once this pungent bulb is baked, it transforms into a decadent, buttery delight. Dad will definitely be asking for seconds and thirds. Get the recipe here. Recipe from

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

If Dad just can't bring himself to eat pasta with sauce that's any other color but red, this pepper option is a great alternative to tomato. Blend 1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red peppers with about 2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar in a blender. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed to help it blend. Avoid adding too much liquid from the jar, as it can be very acidic. Mince 4 cloves garlic and add to a skillet with 2 tablespoons butter. Saute the garlic in the butter over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until the garlic has softened and becomes very fragrant, but not browned. Add the pureed peppers, ½ teaspoon dried basil and some pepper. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, or until the mixture is thick. Add ½ cup heavy cream to the skillet, stir until the sauce is smooth and allow to heat through. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Serve over tubed pasta and add some sauteed spinach and Italian sausage for a tasty main dish. Make sure to also have really good crusty bread with which to clean your plate. Recipe from

Avocado Sauce

This light condiment is perfect for summer. Place 1 ripe avocado that's halved, seeded and peeled, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup fresh basil and/or cilantro and 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice in a blender or food processor and blend well. You can leave it chunky or process it until it's creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately over pasta — or zucchini noodles if you're gluten- and/or carb-free — and garnish with more Parmesan cheese. Recipe from

Butternut Squash Sauce With Sage

Save this recipe, because these flavors taste like the fall season. Cut 1 large butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds) in half lengthwise to remove the seeds and strings. Peel the skin using a paring knife and cut the squash into small cubes. In a deep skillet over medium heat, drop 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 minced shallots. When the shallots begin to get some color, add the squash and season with salt and pepper. Saute a few minutes to lightly caramelize the surface of the cubes. Add 1 bay leaf, a pinch of nutmeg, 6 chopped fresh sage leaves and 1 cup chicken broth. Cover the pan and cook until the squash is tender but still holding its shape, about 8 minutes. Puree the sauce with a standard or immersion blender. This sauce is best served over potato gnocchi, but any pasta will do. Top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and chopped chestnuts before serving. If you're feeling fancy, fry some sage and shallots in olive oil as a garnish. Recipe from Tyler Florence,

Foriana Sauce

According to Saveur, this rustic sauce is traditionally served during Lent in southern Italy. But I'm sure Dad will love the sweet and savory sauce anytime. Place 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup pine nuts and 10 large cloves garlic in a food processor and pulse to a fine chop, until the nuts are like damp granola. Add 3 teaspoons dried oregano and pulse a few more times to combine. Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over a medium heat. Add the nut mixture, ½ cup white or golden raisins and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning or searing. Toss with your favorite pasta and garnish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. To store for later, pour sauce in a jar and top off with a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil to cover by a half-inch. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 9 days. Recipe adapted from