Special Report

Best Pasta Sauces That Don’t Have Tomatoes

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Aglio e olio (or aglio, olio, e peperoncino)

The name, which means “garlic and oil” (or “garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes”) is also the recipe. Originally from Naples, this simple preparation, traditionally used with spaghetti, combines olive oil, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes, sometimes with chopped parsley and/or breadcrumbs added. Nothing more is needed.

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Alfredo (American)

The sauce Americans call Alfredo probably wouldn’t be recognized as such in Italy. Our version combines butter and parmesan cheese with heavy cream and usually garlic and parsley. Some versions add peas with ham, bacon, chicken, onions, or other meats or vegetables. The results can be delicious, but they probably shouldn’t bear Alfredo’s name (see below).

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Alfredo (Italian)

Invented in 1914 by one Alfredo de Lelio at his Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant in Rome, the original sauce was simply an emulsion of rich Italian butter (a lot of it) and parmesan cheese, with no other additions beyond a little salt and pepper. It was (and still is) served at the restaurant with fettuccine.

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Alla carbonara

Nobody is quite sure where and when carbonara was invented or how it got its name (a carbonara would be a female charcoal seller, or the wife of a male one), but it has become one of the most popular pasta dishes, usually made with spaghetti. It combines whisked eggs with parmesan and/or pecorino cheese, olive oil, small pieces of guanciale (cured pork cheek), pancetta, or bacon, as well as plenty of black pepper. When properly made, it has a creamy consistency, but purists never add actual cream.

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Alla foriana

Named for the town of Forio on the island of Ischia, a volcanic outcropping in the Bay of Naples, this olive oil-based sauce combines walnuts and raisins — a pairing that dates to medieval times — with pine nuts, oregano, and plenty of garlic.