Pink sauce is an extremely simple twist on Italian traditional tomato sauce, or sugo di pomodoro. The twist is the addition of cream to the sauce or creating the sauce and adding cream at the end. Even though that sounds simple, there are several variations and twists that can dramatically differentiate any two pink sauces. We had one thing in mind when we created this, and that was flavor! We wanted a sauce that was simple, but delicious and not something that lacks flavor like some we have experienced.
Looking for more tomato based sauce recipes? Try out our Pasta al Sugo di Pomodoro with Whipped Basil Ricotta or our Baked Rigatoni with Tomato Herb Meat Sauce.
What is Italian Pink Sauce?
There are several versions of this creamy tomato sauce and several confusing names given to them. Tomato sauce with some sort of creamy dairy is what we are talking about when we say pink sauce (you may see the name 'blush sauce' as well). Some can be found in Italy, like the one described above, and others attributed to Italian-Americans. Either way, it is a personal preference sauce that can be beautiful and delicious.
- Simple Italian Pink Sauce: such as in our recipe - sugo with cream. Variations of this cream sauce include sugo with bechamel, sugo with ricotta or mascarpone, etc.
- Rosa Parma sauce (also referred to as Parma Rosa sauce) - Italian-American creamy pink sauce combining a creamy Alfredo sauce and marinara sauce. However, this name has been known to be used interchangeably with both Pink Sauce and Rose Sauce
- Rose sauce - Italian pink sauce made with fresh tomatoes and aromatics with a little cream.
- Rosatella sauce - combines tomato passata, heavy cream, white wine, and seasonings. However, this name has also been used by some with the others on this list.
- Vodka Sauce - often found in Italian restaurants in America, as well as in Italy, this is also a pink sauce with some vodka added during the cooking process. Depending on the storyteller, it was invented in either Bologna, Rome, or New York City in the 1970s or 80s. In both the United States and Italy it is most often served with a tubed pasta, such as penne or rigatoni.
The ingredients in this Italian pink sauce recipe with chicken are straightforward and easy to find at the grocery store. Here is what you need to make this recipe:
- Chicken: We use boneless skinless chicken breasts, sautéed in a pan, simply seasoned, and sliced.
- Italian Seasoning: Season the chicken with Italian seasoning to give it an herby Italian flavor.
- Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
- Olive Oil: We use olive oil to cook the chicken so no need to use your most expensive EVOO here, any olive oil works.
- White Wine: A dry white wine to finish off the chicken, giving more flavor to the protein and complementing the flavors in the sauce.
- Fusilli: This pasta has a great shape for holding sauce. Any pasta shape works well in this recipe though.
- Sugo di Pomodoro: Make ours! It is ready in under an hour and makes enough to use in multiple dishes like our Pasta al Sugo di Pomodoro with Whipped Basil Ricotta or Italian Meatball Sub Sandwich.
- Heavy Cream: We add heavy cream to the red sauce to give it that nice pink hue.
- Cherry Tomatoes: The cherry tomatoes are lightly cooked in the sauce adding delicious bright pops of tomato and a great texture in the final dish.
- Parmiggiano Reggiano: We use the real deal Parmesan cheese from Italy to top off the dish at the end. And of course always have extra for serving.
- Basil Leaves: We love these here for garnish and a bright flavor.
See recipe card below for quantities.
Here are a few common substitutions for the ingredients in this pasta with pink sauce and chicken recipe:
- Chicken: You can always omit chicken, or replace it with another protein that you like. Italian sausage goes well with this pink sauce, but you could also use thinly sliced pork, or even shrimp as well.
- Italian seasoning: You can use a combination of any or all of the following dried herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley sage, and marjoram instead of an Italian seasoning blend.
- Cream: If you want to lighten it up you can use whole milk or half and half instead.
- Fusilli: We love this pasta shape with pink sauce, but you can certainly use any kind of pasta you like. This pasta is great with penne pasta, rigatoni or ziti as well.
How to make Italian Pink Sauce Pasta
This pink sauce pasta is really a simple recipe to make. We use our sugo di pomodoro as the base and the only additions to make pink sauce are cream and a small amount of salt. But it is quite simple to make our homemade sugo, making variations such as this pink sauce, a snap. If you make the sugo in advance, then this easy pasta dish comes together in less than 20 minutes and is perfect for a busy weeknight.
No special equipment is needed
- Large pot to cook the pasta
- Large pan to cook the chicken, make the sauce, and mix in the pasta with the sauce
- Instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken
Step 1: Prepare Pasta Water
- Start heating a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoon for every 6-8 quarts of water) for the pasta so it can be brought to a boil in a very short time when the chicken is cooked
Step 2: Heat the Sugo
- Bring the sugo up to heat, slowly, in a saucepan
Step 3: Cook the Chicken
- Either start with pounded chicken breasts or gently pound the chicken to make the thickness more uniform so they cook evenly. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it helps to even it out close to 1” thick. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, then heat up the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Cook the chicken on each side for about 6 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Check the temperature of the chicken with a thermometer. Since you are cooking the chicken, then covering it and letting it rest while you finish the sauce and pasta, we recommend cooking to 160°F and letting it rest, snugly covered with foil for 10 minutes or so. The total approximate time to cook the chicken is about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of the chicken breast and your stove temperature.
Step 4: Cook the Pasta and Finish the Pink Sauce
- While the chicken rests, put the pasta in the boiling salted water and cook to al dente. Meanwhile, add the cream and cherry tomatoes to the simmering sugo and bring back to a simmer while the pasta cooks. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about a half cup of starchy pasta water, then drain and add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Add an additional splash of pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.
Step 5: Slice the Chicken, Combine Into the Finished Dish, Plate and Serve
- Slice the chicken into bite size slices and add to the large pan with the sauce and pasta. Stir to combine and plate. Serve with extra parmesan cheese and fresh basil as a garnish.
Here are a couple of ways to change up this recipe…
- Replace the cream with ricotta or mascarpone to give it a nice, flavorful change.
- Add some crushed red pepper flakes to spice the sauce up a little.
- Change the protein to sausage, pork or shrimp.
How to store leftover Italian Pink Sauce Pasta
Store covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How long does Italian Pink Sauce last:
Italian pink sauce will be good if stored properly in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can you freeze Italian Pink Sauce?
The sauce will freeze well, and keep up to 3 months. Store in a tightly sealed container in the freezer. We don't recommend freezing the leftovers with the pasta and chicken though.
How to reheat leftover Italian Pink Sauce Pasta?
Reheat the sauce, whether refrigerated or frozen, in a saucepan over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until heated through.
- Use high quality cream. Good heavy cream, without any additives, will give the best flavor and texture.
- Make sure you taste the sugo (tomato sauce) after adding the cream. Nearly every time, the seasoning will be lacking since cream was added and a pinch or two of additional salt will need to be added.
This Italian pink sauce pasta dish is quite simple to make, and there are rarely issues in its preparation. If on the off chance that you incorrectly temp your chicken or it is otherwise underdone when you start to slice it, continue to slice the chicken, heat up a skillet with a touch of olive oil, and finish it off before adding it to the sauce. It will only take a few minutes and you won’t have underdone chicken in your dish!
What to Make with this Italian Pink Sauce Recipe
Since it already has chicken, this is more of a main course, but you can always serve it with some good Italian bread or garlic bread to soak up the extra sauce when you’re done! A good salad is a great starter as well.
What Wines Pair Best with Italian Pink Sauce Pasta
Many wines pair well with this dish. You could do white, rosè or red, but there are a few things to look for. Because of the richness of the cream and the sweetness of tomatoes, your choice should have some good acidity to it. Italian rose wines are great for this. For white wines, Spanish albariño, California sauvignon blanc and dry rieslings are great picks. As for reds, a lighter Rhone Valley wine from France or our favorite, a Barbaresco from Italy.
Looking for more Italian recipes?
If you want more Italian recipes, you can find the classics under Classic Italian Recipes.
We also have a cookbook, Mangiamo. It includes 60 incredibly delicious Italian and Italian-inspired recipes.
Although vodka sauce is sometimes confused with Italian pink sauce, they are actually not quite the same. An Italian pink sauce usually combines tomato sauce with cream (sometimes ricotta or bechamel). A vodka sauce is also a tomato cream sauce but made with vodka, and usually a bit thinner than pink sauce.
It is simply the color of the sauce! Cream added to the deep red tomato sauce will turn it pink and give it a creamy texture and flavor.
At its core, this sauce is simply a good tomato sauce with cream added. In the United States, a pink sauce is sometimes referred to as a sauce made with marinara and creamy Alfredo sauce.
Looking for other pasta recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite Italian appetizers to serve with this pasta dish:
Delicious Italian Pink Sauce Fusilli Pasta with Chicken Recipe
- 1 large skillet
- 1 large sauce pan
- Instant read thermometer
- 2 cups Sugo di Pomodoro or your favorite Italian tomato sauce
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- half pint cherry tomatoes
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 8 oz fusilli pasta
- Start heating a large pot of salted water for the pasta so it can be brought to a boil in a very short time when the chicken is cooked. Meanwhile, bring the sugo up to heat, slowly, in a saucepan (or make the sugo first if you haven't already done so).
- Either start with or gently pound the chicken to make the thickness more uniform. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it helps to even it out close to 1” thick. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, then heat up the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Cook the chicken on each side for 6 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Check the temperature of the chicken with a thermometer. Since you are cooking the chicken, then covering it and letting it rest while you finish the sauce and pasta, we recommend cooking to 160°F and letting it rest, snugly covered with foil for 10 minutes or so. The total approximate time to cook the chicken is about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of the chicken breast and your stove temperature.
- While the chicken rests, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook to al dente. Meanwhile, add the cream and cherry tomatoes to the simmering sugo and bring back to a simmer while the pasta cooks. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about a half cup of starchy pasta water, then drain and add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Add an additional splash of pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.
- Slice the chicken into bite size slices and add to the large pan with the sauce and pasta. Stir to combine and plate. Serve with parmesan and fresh basil as a garnish.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Always use separate cutting boards for raw meat or thoroughly clean and sanitize the cutting board before using again
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature (between 40°-140°F) for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove