Delicious Pasta Sauces That Don't Use Tomatoes

Tired of your usual tomato-based pasta sauce?

We Filipinos sure love our noodles, and with good reason. Noodles, whether in the form of the various regional pancit dishes or party classics like spaghetti carbonara, have come to represent a time for celebration and coming together. Few dishes represent this better than our local version of spaghetti, with its trademark sweetness and bits of hotdog or ham thrown in for texture and meatiness. 

However, even the biggest fans of Pinoy spaghetti need an occasional break from the tomato-based or cream sauces we all grew up with. If you want pasta but looking for something a little different, here are some unconventional sauces that would go well with almost any noodle.

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Roasted Pepper Sauce 

Roasted peppers are a great addition to soups and stews and are delicious when pickled and added to sandwiches, but they're also amazing as the starting point for a delightful pasta sauce. To make this sauce, split several bell peppers and place them over coals or open flame. Once the pepper skins have begun to blacken and blister, flip them over to roast the pepper core. You'll know the peppers are done roasting when they've lost much of their rigidity and lie flat on the grill.

Once you're done roasting the peppers, peel off the skin and scorched parts by running a spoon over them. Try to remove as much of the scorched skin as possible as this will taste bitter and could ruin your sauce. You should be left with lush, fleshy skin that's either bright orange or a muted green, depending on which kind of pepper you use. Then, just put the flesh in a blender along with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper to make your sauce. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If you drag your finger across the sauced spoon, the line your finger creates should hold. If the line breaks up too quickly, your sauce is too thin and you should blend in more roasted peppers to give your sauce more body.

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This sauce should be silky and have a bit of sweetness when it's done. As such, it goes great with long flat noodles like tagliatelle and fettuccine.

Crème Fraiche

Crème fraiche can be thought of as a French version of sour cream and is made in much the same way. You can buy crème fraiche from specialty food stores, but you can also try making your own at home. To do this, you'll need a small container of cooking cream (not all-purpose cream, that's something else) and an oven or toaster big enough to fit all the cream. Heat up your oven to around 100°C, then turn it off and try not to open the oven door too much. Open the packaging and place the container of cream in your oven. Alternatively, you may want to pour out your cream into an oven-safe container, which you can then put in the oven. Either way, leave your cream in the still-warm oven overnight.

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When you come back to your oven in the morning, you can expect to find a substance that resembles the cream you bought but is a little stiffer and smells a bit sour. That's because the cultures present in the cream grew and multiplied overnight, causing the cream to ferment a bit. This will make your crème fraiche a bit tangy as well as giving it some body, similar to the texture of yogurt.

Crème fraiche is a great sauce base for short-noodle pastas like farfalle or hollow pastas like elbow macaroni. It's both rich and creamy enough to coat the pasta well and the bit of tang makes the flavors pop. Saute some chopped bacon, add in some peas and a dollop of crème fraiche, and pour your sauce over some farfalle for a quick midweek treat.

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Crab Fat (Aligue) 

This is for fans of local flavor! Crab fat pasta sauce is perfect for anyone looking for an unctuous, flavorful pasta sauce that's easy to execute. The best part about this sauce base is that, unless you intend to extract your own crab fat (and we won't discourage you if you want it fresh), all you have to do is open a bottle and you have your sauce. Crab fat, sometimes referred to aligue or taba ng talangka, is already pretty runny, and applying a little heat to it will cause it to melt even more, making it ideal as a starter for sauce.

For a simple, flavorful dish, just lightly saute some garlic, and once it begins to turn brown, add a dollop or two of crab fat and continue to saute over medium heat. Add in your noodles once the oil begins to separate from the crab fat. Then, sprinkle some spring onions over your pasta and serve it with a bit of calamansi and chopped siling labuyo for a bit of kick. Using a long-noodle pasta like spaghetti or linguine with this sauce would be advisable.

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There's no reason your pasta should depend on canned tomatoes and pre-made bottled sauces. Be creative and observant the next time you go to the grocery store and you might come across your next unexpected pasta favorite.

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