A Creamy Tomato Sauce for Pasta or Gnocchi (Salsa rosa)

Gnocchi with pink sauce
Tatjana Ristanic/Stocksy United
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Ratings (8)

This is a quick, easy-to-make and delicate tomato-cream sauce with a pleasing, blush-pink hue. It allegedly has French origins, and it works great with potato gnocchi or short pasta shapes. It would also pair well with many types of filled pasta such as ravioli or tortellini. 

This is a great recipe to have up your sleeve when you're in a rush, or if unexpected company stops in. It looks so elegant that nobody will suspect just how simple it was to make. 

It's also popular with kids, since it's tasty and uncomplicated. 

[Edited by Danette St. Onge on May 26, 2016.]

What You'll Need

  • 1 pound (400 grams) potato gnocchi or a short pasta shape (such as penne or farfalle)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 small clove of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
  • Dash of fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (15 grams) Parmigiano-Reggiano (freshly grated)

How to Make It

  1. Bring a large, covered pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt it, and add the penne, gnocchi, or other short pasta of choice.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce and garlic in a small saucepan. When the tomato sauce reaches a simmer, lower the heat to low, stir in the cream, and heat through, being careful not to let the sauce burn. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
  1. When the pasta's ready, drain it and transfer it to a bowl. Stir in the sauce and the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, toss to coat pasta evenly, garnish with parsley, and serve.
  2. Or, if you'd rather, transfer the drained pasta (don't do this if you are cooking gnocchi) to a skillet and toss it for a minute or so with the sauce over high heat before serving it.



  • Tor a milder sauce, use onions in place of garlic.
  • For a more piquant, somewhat spicy sauce, you can add a pinch of crushed dried red chili peppers (peperoncini) to the tomato sauce when simmering it with the garlic. 
  • Top with a few fresh basil leaves instead of parsley when serving.
  • Season with ground pink pepper instead of black, to preserve a perfect pink color.
  • For a lighter version, use cream cheese instead of the heavy cream.

As for a wine pairing, I would choose a light white here, along the lines of a Galestro, which is a central Tuscan blend.