Argentine Pasta Sauce: Tuco

In Argentina, one of the main dishes is pasta.  On my two-year stay in the Patagonia I ate pasta regularly- maybe twice a week.  Many times the pasta was prepared as spaghetti.  Sometimes an Argentine family would treat us to homemade noquis- an delicious potato pasta that is made of short noodles that look like small sea shells.

How Argentine pasta is prepared

There are some main differences in Argentine and American pasta.  The two main differences I can think of is that pasta in Argentina is more oily and has a thicker, meatier sauce known as tuco.

Why pasta in Argentina is more oily

While not always the case, many times pasta in Argentina is more oily.  This is often because the Argentines will not drain the oils off of meats.  Instead, in Argentina they will usually mix all of the meat and oils directly with the pasta.  Even when the pasta does not have much tuco sauce, it is still savory because the pasta is coated with rich oils.

When pasta is prepared with chicken often legs of chicken will be directly cooked in the same pan as the pasta.  By doing this all of the fat that melts off the chicken will mix and make the pasta all the more rich.

Argentine pasta sauce- tuco sauce

Tuco is Argentina’s term for pasta sauce.  The tuco is quite different than American spaghetti sauce.  While American spaghetti sauce has a lot of tomato paste, tuco sauce is more heavy on meat and other vegetables.

While the ingredients that make up tuco sauce can vary, tuco sauces typically have similar ingredients.

Tuco ingredients

  • Meat- meat makes up the majority of the tuco sauce.
  • Carrots- slices of carrots are often cooked in the tuco sauce.
  • Onions- onions are often cooked with the tuco sauce.
  • Tomatoes- while tuco sauce can contain tomatos- it does not have nearly as many tomatoes as American spaghetti sauce.
  • Optional- some other veggies that may be included in tuco sauce are green peppers and garlic.

-Written by Alex Balinski (Argentina Neuquen Mission 2008-2010)

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