Red, Green, or White Pasta Sauce — What’s the Difference?

 Red, Green, or White Pasta Sauce — What’s the Difference?

Red, green, and white — they’re the colours of the Italian flag and they’re also the three colours of the most common (and delicious) pasta sauces.

Most of us are familiar with red pasta sauces — be it a marinara or a classic tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce. Green and white sauces are equally delicious and can form the basis of tasty, nutritious meals that the whole family will love.

Why stick with what you know? Read on to discover the difference between these three types of sauces and how you can use them to create classic Italian recipes.

Red pasta sauce

Somewhat unsurprisingly, a red pasta sauce is one that uses tomato as the base ingredient. Tomato-based sauces are a crucial ingredient in some of the oldest and most popular Italian dishes. However, the idea of using tomato sauce does not necessarily originate in Italy, with numerous ancient records pointing to the fact that it may have been Spain where it was first invented.

The first mention of tomato sauce in an Italian context can be found in a late 17th century cookbook created by steward Antonio Latini. Fast forward to today and there are hundreds of different variations of the classic tomato sauce, including the very popular tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce. The original recipe has been adapted to suit many different dishes, including pizzas, stews, and risottos.

Green pasta sauce

The vibrant colour of green pasta sauce can actually come from many different sources. The most common type of green sauce is pesto, which is made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil.

In other contexts, the descriptor ‘green’ may not refer to the colour of the sauce but rather the type of ingredients that feature in the meal. Green pastas are often veggie-rich, with broccoli, leek, spinach, and peas all common inclusions.

White pasta sauce

Finally, the white pasta sauce. White pasta sauces are typically very rich and heavy. The base ingredient is usually cream and a dish that uses a white pasta sauce may be quite sparing in its use of other ingredients; the sauce often acts as the hero element.

Bechamel sauce is a very popular variety of white sauce. Originating in France, bechamel sauce is often used in thick, hearty dishes such as lasagna and the Greek moussaka.

What to look for in a pasta sauce

Your choice of pasta sauce really depends on what role you want the sauce to play in your meal.

If you are looking for a balanced accompaniment to a veggie-rich meal, you might consider an option such as tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce. If, on the other hand, you are wanting to highlight the quality of the pasta itself, an understated pesto may be the better option.

Regardless of the type of sauce you opt for, there are several key factors that should be kept in mind:

  • Nutritional content: Unfortunately, some pasta sauces are very high in salt and oil. Before purchasing a sauce, be sure to read the nutritional information carefully. Make sure that the sauce is made from predominantly whole ingredients and does not contain excess salt or preservatives.
  • Price: Pasta sauce comes at a variety of price points. As is the case with any food product, the higher the price, the better the quality. However, as pasta is one of the world’s most popular dishes, you will certainly be able to find a good sauce online or at your local supermarket that meets your budget.
  • Used-by date: This is particularly important if you live alone or are only cooking for a few people. It is usually the case that once opened, a jar of pasta sauce will need to be used within a few days. Keep this in mind when planning your weekly meals. Given the versatility of pasta sauce, you may be able to use the product in other recipes, including pizza and stew.

Pasta night is back!

Has all this talk of pasta gotten you excited to get into the kitchen? Why not try this easy and delicious recipe that the whole family will love, featuring a jar of tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce.

Chilli tomato pasta

Serves 4.


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1 jar tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce
  • 125ml vegetable stock
  • 350 g dried pasta
  • Parmesan, to serve.


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the garlic and eggplant. 
  4. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and jar of tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce.
  6. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is al dente.
  8. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce mixture and combine well.
  9. Serve topped with parmesan — enjoy!

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