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Roberta Muir - Food-Wine-Travel ST FOOD & WINE GUIDE


Written by Roberta Muir



Dear Reader

A quick pasta sauce is my Sunday night stand by – in fact it’s my go-to any night of the week when I don’t really feel like cooking. My favourites are made from what’s on hand in the pantry or fridge (with maybe a few herbs from the garden) and ready in the time it takes for the water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook, which means it’s even quicker than calling out for pizza!

Aglio, Olio, Pepperoncini

Garlic, olive oil and chilli – this may be the easiest pasta sauce ever. I love it because it’s also one of the tastiest and quickest!  It’s typical of southern Italy, where a few frugal ingredients had to feed large families. Best with spaghetti or other long dried pasta.

Ragu Bologneser with Fericcine


The ancestor of Australia’s beloved ‘spag bol’, after some preliminary chopping this slow-cooked beef and pork ragù cooks itself. It’s a great do-ahead sauce, worth making a large batch, portioning and freezing it. Best with fresh egg pasta like tagliatelle or fettucine.


I make pesto in a food processor rather than pounding in a mortar, just pulse it as little as possible so it doesn’t heat. Make a big batch, store under olive oil in the fridge and enjoy all year round. Traditional with trofie (small twisted pasta), I love it with any shape!

Carbonara Classic


There’s always some eggs, parmesan and cured pork in my fridge – guanciale (cheek) is traditional, but substitute pancetta (belly) or even bacon at a pinch. This simple Roman sauce tastes creamy but definitely doesn’t contain cream. I like it with bucatini or tonnarelli.


Whore’s pasta (that’s what ‘puttana’ means) is made from preserves found in every Italian pantry (olives, capers, anchovies, passata), as the busy working girls of Naples didn’t have time to shop for fresh produce. Best with penne or similar short.

Some more of my favourite pasta sauces are broccoli, garlic & anchovies with orecchiette (from Puglia); Sorrentina from the Amalfi Coast (great with gnocchi); a simple mushroom sauce with pappardelle or other wide egg pasta; Rome’s cacio e pepe, which takes a bit of practice but is worth perfecting; pasta e fagioli which is made all over Italy in one form or another; and a vegetarian version of the classic carbonara with zucchini.

For more on buying and cooking pasta, see my article here.
See more of what I’m cooking, eating and drinking on Instagram

For a print-friendly version of this list (and to check out more of my Top 5 tips) visit

About the author

Roberta Muir

Roberta Muir runs Sydney Seafood School and publishes the website Food Wine Travel, where she shares her favourite recipes and latest food, wine and travel discoveries. You can sign up here to receive her regular newsletter of recipes and Top 5 favourite food, wine and travel experiences.

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