When you need an easy dinner that everyone will love, look to these 5-ingredient pasta sauce recipes.

Don’t get us wrong, when it comes to pasta we have no problem with a complex, long simmering ragu just like Nonna used to make (though never quite as good). But a simple sauce can also be satisfying, especially on a weeknight when you barely have room on your schedule to cook, let alone make a trip to the supermarket.

Whether you’re a fan of a tomato base, classic pesto, or something creamy, there are a number of time- and money-saving options that can be made with just a few ingredients.

Instead of opening that jar, take a crack at some of our favorite minimalist pasta sauce recipes.

Easy Tomato Sauce

easy tomato sauce

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A can of crushed tomatoes (flavorful San Marzanos are worth the splurge) paired with onion and garlic sizzled in olive oil are all you need here. Easy, indeed. Get our Easy Tomato Sauce recipe.

Related Reading: How to Use Tomato Soup as Pasta Sauce

No-Cook Tomato Sauce

When tomatoes are in season, why not eat fresh? This 5-ingredient sauce harnesses the fruit’s full favor with ample sweetness and acidity, plus you don’t even have to use the stove. Get the No-Cook Tomato Sauce recipe.

Related Reading: A No-Cook Pasta Sauce Is a No-Brainer for An Easy Summer Dinner

Cacio e Pepe

cacio e pepe pasta

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Finely grated Pecorino Romano (the cacio) and coarsely ground black pepper (the pepe) join forces with butter to form a sultry sauce with a complexity that defies its simplicity. Get our Cacio e Pepe recipe.

Related Reading: The Secret to Perfect Cacio e Pepe Lies in This One Step

Easy Basil Pesto

spinach pesto recipe for pasta

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Traditional pesto never goes out of style. Herbal, nutty, with a salty kick courtesy of Parmigiano Reggiano, the beloved no-cook sauce works wonders with lasagna and fusilli, not to mention a slew of non-pasta options. Get our Easy Basil Pesto recipe.

Related Reading: This One-Pot Pasta with Asparagus Pesto Is a Weeknight Dinner Superstar

Caramelized Tomato and Sausage

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The secret to this one-two flavor punch is to cook the sausage first, then let the tomatoes caramelize in the drippings. Top your noodles with shaved Pecorino along with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and you’ve got yourself a filling meal. Get our Caramelized Tomato and Sausage recipe.

Related Reading: 11 Tips for Perfect Grilled Sausage Including the One Thing You Should Never Do

Desperation Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara recipe

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A handful of pantry staples are all that’s required to whip up this vegetarian version of the creamy classic. While the ingredients are scaled back from your standard carbonara (hence the “desperation”), the indulgence remains in full force.  Get our Carbonara recipe.

Butter, Tomato, and Onion Sauce

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This was the go-to sauce for the mother of famed cookbook author Giuliano Hazan so you know it’s special. The addition of butter (five tablespoons to be exact) offers welcome richness to the classic tomato and onion combo. Get the Butter, Tomato, and Onion Sauce recipe.

Blue Cheese Sauce

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Want to bring some funk to your gnocchi? Simply bake those pillows of potato in a bubbly bath of blue cheese, cream, and parmesan, wait 15 to 20 minutes, and they’ll literally be golden. Maybe save this one for a cheat day. Get our Blue Cheese Sauce recipe.

Related Reading: This Blue Cheese French Onion Soup Is the Best You’ll Ever Eat

Alfredo Sauce

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Familiar favorites Parmesan, cream, and butter are the centerpieces here, with salt n’ pepa giving them a push. Grab some fettuccine and get tossin’.  Get our Alfredo Sauce recipe.

Vegan Vodka Sauce

For vegans frustrated by their carnivorous friends’ reluctance to try delicious meatless home cooked meals, maybe saying the word “vodka” will add some enticement. To keep things 100 for the animal-free prep, add coconut milk instead of the traditionally used heavy cream—no one will be the wiser. Get the Vegan Vodka Sauce recipe.

Related Reading: Pasta Loves Vodka: 9 Variations on a Classic Pairing

Easy Sausage Bolognese

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There’s nothing vegan about this porky spin on bolognese which uses 1 ½ pounds of Italian sausage (just be sure to remove the casing). It’s tasty enough on its own, but if you’ve got Parmesan and fresh basil lying around, they make a great topper. Get our Easy Sausage Bolognese recipe.

David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.
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