Sauces for pasta do generally associate with pasta names. For example arrabbiata is penne arrabbiata. Of course, nobody would stop you to consider more kinds of pasta with that sauce. Only, tagliatelle arrabbiata, for example, would sound odd.
Pasta, like bread, is a neutral element and goes well with about everything you can imagine. Why particular sauces are associated with some pasta shapes can have more than one explanation.
Take the Amatriciana, so called from Amatrice, the town where it originated. Odd enough Amatrice, advertises herself as the town of spaghetti all’amatriciana , but about 100 miles away in Rome is bucatini all’amatriciana. *
The clam sauce recipe is always associated with spaghetti or linguine. Long pasta is better as sauces and condiments are easier to be picked up and cling to the strands. You’ll never see penne or rigatoni with clam sauce and if you would expressly request them in a restaurant, I’m sure you would get a puzzled reaction.
Sauces for pasta can be easy and quick
Sauces are made of several ingredients and just the name implies long preparation and cooking time. Here I have to make a comment about sauces for pasta, completely vegetarian, advertised often in the past, as prepared of selected ingredients, cooking for hours with attention to details and infinite care. Probably this narrative directed to an audience unfamiliar with pasta played well as a sale tactic.
Nothing can be further from the truth. A pasta sauce may take no more than half an hour and even half of that time. Check the marinara recipe and my quick pasta recipes. I can think only of some fish sauces taking one hour and some sauces with meats.
If you have spaghetti ajo ojo e peperoncino, that is not a sauce, rather a condiment or dressing. Even the sauce in spaghetti alla carrettiera may not be qualified to be called as such, but it could pass for that as the chopped tomatoes make it a dense thick… sauce.
My mother and in Italy this kind of simple quick sauce is called “sugo finto” (fake sauce), to distinguish it from rich more robust mixes, like in the bolognese sauce recipe, indispensable for the lasagna… bolognese of course, together with the bechamel sauce.
The pesto pasta recipe originated in Genova. Who knows how this mix came to be. Probably out of some ingenuity, in the effort of giving some zest to ordinary food. What is important in this dish is the basil. They claim that the pesto made in the Genova region, Liguria, is something else. Like wine made from the same variety of grapes will taste different as from which region it comes from, so are herbs. It’s the climate, the soil and who knows what else.
Eating in an elegant restaurant, Villa Italia, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania years ago and talking with the Italian owner, he acknowledged this fact. Even the Neapolitan cook, admitted that the dishes made the same way with the same ingredients, didn’t completely result as flavorful and tasted the same as in his native Naples. *
A cream sauce for pasta generally includes butter and cheeses. Cream is generally added at the end of the cooking is to refine the sauce.
Wine is widely used in Italian cooking and so in sauces for pasta. The bolognese sauce recipe calls for it. In Amatriciana many add some white wine to flavor and for balance to the fat in the sauce. Even spirits are used. Vodka sauce, very popular, is an example.
Types of sauces for pasta
There are practically 3 types of sauces: with meat, fish and vegetarian.
Vegetarians are quick pasta recipes, as the ingredients don’t need a long cooking time. More often not to lose the fragrance, only a few minutes cooking time are necessary. Typical examples are spaghetti alla carrettiera and spaghetti marinara.
Some seafood pasta recipes are:
Tuna sauce recipe, pasta tonno e piselli, spaghetti with clams. Very interesting mix and very healthy is tagliatelle with salmon spinach and ricotta. Another rich intriguing and tasty dish is fettuccine with fresh salmon.
Very popular are shrimp pasta recipes.
Bolognese sauce recipe is with beef. Some people like to mix some ground pork and veal too.
One popular pasta with chicken is: penne pollo e peperoni.
Also prosciutto (raw ham) and cooked ham is used to flavor some sauces.
A good combination is prosciutto and peas in in some Italian pasta recipes and is present in a popular pasta dish: penne prosciutto e piselli and tagliatelle with ham and cream. Or a variation of a simple tomato sauce for a tastier and richer dish with tagliatelle prosciutto e pomodoro
Sausage and pasta recipes are also very tasty, generally degreased with white wine. For a good appetite, try the sausage pasta dish maccheroni rustici.
Pasta with sauces in Italian is called “pastasciutta“, which translates in “dry pasta”. In other words, in the Italian pasta recipes, just enough sauce is used to coat the pasta.