The 5 best Italian sauces for summer

When it comes to turning simple ingredients into a taste sensation, Italian cooks know best. For coating pasta, topping bruschetta and more, these are the season’s go-to sauces. Bravo!

Find a fresh tomato sauce with an alcoholic twist, a red pesto, anchovy sauce, spicy marinara and vibrant salsa verde, here.

The 5 best Italian sauces for summer

Fresh tomato and vodka sauce
Serves 4. Hands-on time 30 min

Make ahead: Keep covered in the fridge and use within 2 days.
How to serve: Stir cooked penne into the sauce, then spoon into a baking dish, scatter with parmesan and grill until bubbling. Scatter over fresh basil to serve.

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 100ml vodka
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 6 large fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 20g fresh basil, leaves picked
  1. Put the oil in a saucepan set over a low heat. Add the onion and cook slowly
    for about 10 minutes until softened and starting to turn light golden.
  2. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for 2 minutes or until the garlic begins
    to colour. Add the vodka and simmer for 2-3 minutes to cook off the harsh alcohol flavour. Stir in the tomato purée, then the chopped tomatoes. Add the basil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Nutritional information (per serving): 157kcals, 5.9g fat (0.9g saturated), 1.9g protein, 8.5g carbs (7.5g sugars), 0.2g salt, 3.2g fibre

Pesto rosso
Serves 4-6. Hands-on time 15 min

Make ahead: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
How to serve: Spread the pesto on toasted ciabatta, top with rocket and torn mozzarella, then serve as a light lunch.

  • 15g pine nuts, toasted
  • 15g blanched almonds, lightly toasted
  • 125g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 30ml of the oil
  • 125g roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 40g finely grated parmesan (or a vegetarian alternative)
  • ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Put all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor or mini blender, then pulse until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. Alternatively, chop everything as finely as possible with a sharp knife, then pound together in a large pestle and mortar. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Nutritional information (for 6 servings):175kcals, 12g fat (2.4g saturated), 4.1g protein, 12.1g carbs (8.2g sugars), 0.9g salt, 1.5g fibre

Anchovy, lemon and caperberry sauce
Serves 4. Hands-on time 20 min

Make ahead: Make a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge.
How to serve: Mix in enough pasta water to make a coating consistency, then toss through cooked trofie or spaghetti.

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 4-6 anchovy fillets in olive oil
  • 200g caperberries
  • Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
  • Small handful fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Parmesan for grating
  1. Put the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy fillets and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies have mostly dissolved.
  2. Add the caperberries, stir to warm through, then add the lemon zest and juice and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the parsley and finish with a generous grating of parmesan.

Nutritional information (per serving):124kcals, 11.5g fat (1.7g saturated), 2g protein, 2g carbs (0.4g sugars), 1.6g salt, 2.3g fibre

Marinara sauce
Serves 4-6. Hands-on time 15 min, simmering time 30 min

Make ahead: The sauce will keep in an airtight container, chilled, for up to 1 week.
How to serve: Simmer browned meatballs in the sauce until cooked through. Serve with a generous grating of parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 3 fresh basil sprigs
  • 1½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g tins whole plum tomatoes
  • Pinch caster sugar (optional) to taste
  1. Put the oil in a pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently
    for 10 minutes until completely soft and translucent.
  2. Turn up the heat slightly, add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the basil sprigs, cook for a minute, then add the tomato purée, stirring to combine.
  3. Add the plum tomatoes, crushing with the back of the wooden spoon to release the juices into the sauce, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to low, then simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of caster sugar, if needed, to taste.

Nutritional information (for 6 servings): 76kcals, 3.8g fat (0.5g saturated), 2g protein, 7.4g carbs (6.8g sugars), 0.1g salt, 1.8g fibre

Salsa verde
Serves 4. Hands-on time 15 min

Make ahead: Make up to 1 day ahead, then keep covered in the fridge.
How to serve: Spoon over pan-fried fish fillets or barbecued steak with seasonal veg served on the side.

  • Large handful each fresh flatleaf parsley, mint and basil, leaves picked
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 tbsp lemon juice to taste
  1. Finely chop the herbs, capers and anchovies. Transfer to a pestle and mortar (or mini-blender) and pound (or pulse) to form a paste.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper – the sauce should taste sharp and fresh.

Nutritional information (per serving): 181kcals, 18.9g fat (2.7g saturated), 1.6g protein, 1g carbs (0.3g sugars), 0.7g salt, 0.3g fibre

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