What Are the Different Types of Pasta Sauces with Olive Oil?

Amanda R. Bell

Pasta sauces with olive oil can be used on nearly any type of pasta, including noodles and filled pasta. Marinara is one of the most popular pasta sauces with olive oil. In pesto, often used for filled pastas, olive oil is one of the main ingredients. Aglio e olio is a common, quick cooking sauce popular in the Mediterranean region. Olive oil is also often used as a dressing for freshly cooked noodles or cold pasta salads.

Containers of olive oil.
Containers of olive oil.

Marinara sauce typically begins and ends with flavorful olive oil. These pasta sauces are tomato-based and popular in Italy and America. Olive oil is used to sauté aromatics for the sauce, and then drizzled over the sauce and pasta right before serving. Bolognese sauce, which includes the addition of heavy cream and meat, often uses olive oil for both the cooking process and dressing the finished product.

Spaghetti topped with Bolognese sauce, which contains olive oil.
Spaghetti topped with Bolognese sauce, which contains olive oil.

One of the primary ingredients for pesto sauces is olive oil. Traditionally, pestos are made from basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts. The ingredients are blended together and then mixed with parmesan cheese. Other herbs or nuts can be used in place of the basil and pine nuts, although olive oil is always used in traditional pesto sauces.

Pesto pasta.
Pesto pasta.

Aglio e olio is one of the simplest of the pasta sauces with olive oil. For this sauce, a generous amount of high quality olive oil is infused with heavy amounts of garlic and red pepper flakes. The oil then dresses drained, hot pasta. In some cases, anchovies may be broken up into the oil, and parmesan or another hard cheese is usually grated over the pasta once it is tossed in the sauce. These pasta sauces with olive oil are almost always garnished with fresh, bright parsley right before serving.

Many pastas taste good when topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese.
Many pastas taste good when topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

While buttered noodles are popular all over the world, noodles dressed simply with olive oil are often served as quick, healthy lunches in Italy and Sicily. High-quality extra virgin olive oil is drizzled over freshly cooked pasta. In some cases, the dish may be dressed with parmesan cheese or fresh herbs.

Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.
Bowl of pesto with basil leaves.

Olive oil sauces are also common with pasta salads. These pasta sauces with olive oil usually contain some form of acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice, and a variety of herbs and spices. Noodles are cooked, drained, and cooled, then tossed with the olive oil sauce. Seasonal fresh vegetables are often added to these types of dishes, which are a popular accompaniment to barbecues and other summer dishes.

Fresh garlic can give pasta sauce a great flavor.
Fresh garlic can give pasta sauce a great flavor.
Red pepper flakes are used in aglio e olio.
Red pepper flakes are used in aglio e olio.
Marinara sauce is a simple, popular sauce that uses olive oil.
Marinara sauce is a simple, popular sauce that uses olive oil.

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